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Assisted suicide and capital punishment: a mirror image?
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  • Published on:
    Further response to ‘Assisted suicide and capital punishment
    • Colin Brewer, Formerly psychiatrist and addiction physician Co-chair of My Death, My Decision Clinical Advisory Group.
    Dr Regnard claims that I 'find comfort in the belief that any sceptic or critic of assisted dying must be driven by religious fanaticism' That is untrue. Last year, I sent him my critique of two prominent unbelieving opponents of AD, Douglas Murray and Kevin Yuill. [1] Far from being 'desperate to claim that assisted dying is safe' I have argued repeatedly (including emails to Dr Regnard) that occasional difficulties in swallowing or absorbing the full oral dose of prescribed AD medication is a strong argument for direct third-party administration, as preferred by over 99% of Canadian AD patients who have a choice. 


    Although Dr Doré cites a paper as proof that the quality of death in AD is not superior to that in patients requesting but not receiving AD,[2] it actually shows the opposite. "Family members of those choosing [AD] reported greater symptom control, particularly in regard to control over surroundings, better functioning, better energy, and better control of bowel and bladder."  He claims that 'in no way is religion mentioned' and 'in no form do I have a paid role, nor any role within any spiritual or religious organisation' but does not question the evidence that he is very religious. This is consistent with the increasing tendency of religious opponents of AD to disguise the doctrinal basis of their opposition[3] and deliberat...
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    Conflict of Interest:
    None declared.
  • Published on:
    Assisted suicide and faith: a mistaken analogy
    • Claud Regnard, Honorary Consultant in Palliative Medicine St. Oswald's Hospice, Regent Avenue, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, NE3 1EE

    In responding to a rational discussion by Doré,(1) Brewer’s reply was not surprising.(2) He finds comfort in the belief that any sceptic or critic of assisted dying must be driven by religious fanaticism. That prejudice might excuse his mention of the Spanish Inquisition and quoting the bible; but it does not excuse personal criticism of a colleague’s rational arguments on the basis of unsubstantiated claims of religious intransigence.

    As an agnostic, I may share Brewer’s scepticism of religion. Unlike Brewer, I am aware of many agnostics, atheists and humanists who have deep concerns around assisted dying, and many others with religious beliefs whose concerns are driven by strong secular arguments. Brewer is desperate to claim that assisted dying is safe despite the increasing evidence of abuse and lack of monitoring.(3) Fanaticism does not need religion to be damaging.

    1) Doré M. Assisted suicide and capital punishment: a mirror image? BMJ Supportive and Palliative Care. 2023 Jun 27:
    2) Brewer C. Assisted suicide and capital punishment: a mistaken analogy. BMJ Supportive and Palliative Care. 2023 Jul 14:
    3) Coelho R, Maher J, Gain...

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    Conflict of Interest:
    Contributor to
  • Published on:
    Assisted suicide and capital punishment: a mirror image?
    • Matthew Doré, Palliative Medicine Consultant Belfast Health and Social Care Trust

    Thank you for reading the paper. I do not have a competing interest as Brewer accuses (1), in no form do I have a paid role, nor any role within any spiritual or religious organisation.

    To state it clearly, in no way is religion mentioned, illuded to, nor is it a formulation of any of the arguments in this paper, my expertise is simply that of a palliative care physician.

    I will explain a misconception he has outlined. My comparison to capital punishment is based upon the legal standard we have set in the UK, ‘that no-one incorrect should be killed’.

    Given incorrect diagnosis, incorrect prognosis and especially autonomy being fluctuant, relational and social it is inevitable some will be killed incorrectly. The individual autonomy difference between capital punishment and assisted suicide doesn’t mute the point, rather it outlines even greater uncertainty resulting in incorrect deaths. Choosing assisted suicide based upon an incorrect diagnosis for example is not a valid choice. Choosing assisted suicide based upon social circumstances is simply facilitating suicide. Choosing assisted suicide based upon a unlikely future and fear of it, is not a rationally made choice. Brewer states he is a rationalist, indeed an ex-psychiatrist, is it thus not prudent to realise and explore the reason behind a choice rather than blindly accept the choice? Indeed, is this not the basis of suicide prevention?

    Furthermore, suffering does not appear to diminish...

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    Conflict of Interest:
    None declared.
  • Published on:
    Assisted suicide and capital punishment: a mistaken analogy.
    • Colin Brewer, Retired psychiatrist and addiction physician NA

    The ‘no competing interest’ declaration in Doré’s paper[1] opposing assisted dying/assisted suicide (ADS) is highly misleading. In September 2019, he was among 911 Christian signatories to an open letter opposing abortion services in Northern Ireland.[2] It includes: ‘As Christians we believe that the 6th Commandment is binding upon all of humanity. “You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13)’, a belief evidently rejected by the Spanish Inquisition when condemning its last heretic in 1826. His objections to ADS may therefore be equally religion-based.

    Most opposition to ADS has doctrinal origins but surveys repeatedly show that believers, including former Archbishop John Carey, are almost as supportive of ADS as the general UK population. Doré exemplifies recent trends among religious opponents to conceal the beliefs that typically inform their opposition, because they realise Bible-based arguments carry decreasing weight IN AN increasingly secular Britain. Very religious physicians are over-represented in UK palliative care,[3] forcing those who support ADS to do so anonymously lest they damage their careers.[4]

    Comparing capital punishment, an involuntary and generally unwanted procedure, with desired, voluntary and usually long-considered ADS is a major category error. Capital punishment ended in European countries not primarily because of rare mistaken convictions but because its Biblical ‘eye for an eye’ principle was increasingly challenged. Hanging was...

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    Conflict of Interest:
    Co-chair of My Death, My Decision's Clinical Advisory Group.
    Board member of the Rationalist Association.