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Surgeon backs assisted death
1:00pm Monday 14th January 2013 in Headlines
PHYSICIANS should be allowed to end the lives of terminally-ill patients, one of Britain’s most eminent surgeons has said.
Oxfordshire resident Sir Terence English, the former president of the British Medical Association and the Royal College of Surgeons, will host a talk on the issue in Charlbury on Thursday.
Sir Terence, who conducted the UK’s first successful heart transplant in 1979, said he is pushing for the practice to be made legal.
Last September he debated the issue with the former Bishop of Oxford, Lord Harries of Pentregarth, Baroness Finlay of Llandaff and Baroness Mary Warnock at the Sheldonian Theatre in Oxford.
The 80-year-old Iffley resident said: “As a cardiac surgeon I was inevitably confronted with the death of some of my patients.
“And what I came to appreciate was that many of these more seriously ill patients accepted the risk of an operation because they placed greater value on the chance of improving the quality of their life than on its extension.
“I have sympathy for this and believe this might also be true for some of us if we approached the difficult end of a terminal illness.
“Physician-assisted dying applies only to terminally ill, mentally competent adults and allows the patient – after meeting strict legal safeguards – to have the option of self-administering life-ending medication prescribed by a doctor who may or may not be present at the death.”
Some campaigners feel the law should not change.
Andrew Smith, Labour MP for Oxford East, has argued in the past that most doctors did not want to see the law changed.
Paul Scarrott, 42, of Greater Leys, has learning disabilities and spends much of his time caring for his disabled wife.
He said: “I can see why there is a lot of red tape around it, but for normal people to make a decision when they haven’t seen their loved ones in pain is wrong. It should be the choice of the family first, and then the advice of the medical practitioners.”
Philip Randall, of Dibleys, near Didcot, said living among a community of older people often meant watching some die in pain.
Mr Randall, 91, said: “I had no say in arriving on this earth and think I should have a say on whether I depart.”
The meeting has been arranged by local members of Dignity in Dying, and will take place at 8pm at Friends Meeting House, Charlbury, in Market Street.
l Visit www.dignityindying.org.uk