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No more physician in physician-assisted suicide
  1. Tim Harlow
  1. Correspondence to Dr Tim Harlow, Hospiscare, Dryden Road, Exeter EX2 5JJ, UK; t.harlow{at}

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Physician-assisted suicide (PAS) is an important subject internationally and receives much attention. Some jurisdictions including the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland and four American States (Oregon, Montana, Vermont and Washington), have legalised PAS. In the UK, Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide are both illegal, but debate about whether this should change is very much alive. Legislation for PAS has been proposed in Scotland under its devolved powers,1 and most recently by Lord Falconer's Assisted Dying bill in England and Wales.2 This latest bill ran out of Parliamentary time, but is likely to be the basis for future attempts to change the law on PAS. In its April 2015 election manifesto, The Green Party has included a commitment to ‘Provide the right to an assisted death’, confirming that this is a mainstream issue.3 Opinion polls in the UK show public support for a change in the law to allow PAS, most recently 82% either somewhat or strongly in favour of Assisted Dying.4

PAS and its interaction with palliative care is a hot topic in Europe, with calls for doctors in palliative care to be clear in their views and to communicate these views. There are questions about how clearly the diversity of opinion in the European Association for Palliative Care has been represented.5 There have been calls for UK doctors to make their concerns about PAS very clear.6

The clear opinions of UK doctors seem very different to those of the …

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  • Competing interests TH is a member of the BMA, member of Association for Palliative Medicine and chairs its ethics committee.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.