Living Wills Reform `Does Not Legalise Euthanasia'

By Brown, Jonathan | The Independent (London, England), June 19, 2004 | Go to article overview
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Living Wills Reform `Does Not Legalise Euthanasia'

Brown, Jonathan, The Independent (London, England)

LIVING WILLS allowing Alzheimer's sufferers and other mentally incapacitated patients to forbid doctors to intervene to save their lives will not open the door to legalised euthanasia, the Government insisted yesterday.

Under the new Mental Incapacity Bill, patients will be able to appoint a relative or friend to take future decisions on their behalf. Those with no one to act for them will also be able to leave instructions for their care under the new provisions.

Two million people are affected by a lack of mental capacity in the UK, with the number set to rise as the population ages. Under the present law, patients who are conscious and can communicate have the right to refuse treatment.

The new measures, published yesterday, are expected to become law in 2007 and will also cover patients with learning difficulties or who have suffered severe head injuries.

They were drawn up after extensive consultation with the Catholic Church and other parties, including Alzheimer's charities, the Government said. "This Bill expressly provides that it does not affect the law on murder, manslaughter or assisted suicide," said Lord Filkin, a Constitutional Affairs minister. "I hope the Bill will finally lay to rest the misplaced concerns about euthanasia."

Living wills, which are being recognised in British statute for the first time, will allow a nominated person "lasting powers of attorney". This will mean they can make decisions on the patient's health and personal welfare.

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Living Wills Reform `Does Not Legalise Euthanasia'


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