Euthanasia, Ethics, and Public Policy: An Argument against Legalisation

By John Keown | Go to book overview

16
Expert committees

The House of Lords Select Committee

In 1993 in the wake of the controversy generated by the Bland case, the House of Lords (the upper chamber of the legislature as distinct from its Appellate Committee comprising the Law Lords) appointed an expert Select Committee to address issues raised by the case. A central issue the Committee was charged to consider was 'whether and in what circumstances actions that have as their intention or a likely consequence the shortening of another person's life may be justified on the grounds that they accord with that person's wishes or with that person's best interests'.1 The Committee's terms of reference also required it 'to pay regard to the likely effects of changes in law or medical practice on society as a whole'.2

The Select Committee on Medical Ethics comprised fourteen members and was chaired by Lord Walton, an eminent physician and former President of the General Medical Council. The composition of the Committee suggested it might well be sympathetic to reform. Lady Warnock was a well-known liberal philosopher who had chaired a government committee which had recommended destructive research on human embryos in vitro. Lord Mustill was one of the Law Lords who had permitted the withdrawal of Tony Bland's tube-feeding. Only one member was confidently thought to be opposed to euthanasia: Lord Rawlinson, a Roman Catholic and former Attorney-General. Although Lord Habgood had written against de criminalisation, that had been some twenty years before3 and, like Lady Warnock, he had supported permitting non-therapeutic research on human in vitro embryos. In short, the Committee was far from 'pro-life'.

____________________
1
Lords' Report, 7.
2
Ibid.
3
Rt. Revd J. S. Habgood, 'Euthanasia – A Christian View' (1974) 3 J R Soc Health 124, 126. See p. 71 n. 2.

-183-

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Euthanasia, Ethics, and Public Policy: An Argument against Legalisation
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents vii
  • Preface xi
  • Foreword xiii
  • Acknowledgments xv
  • Table of Cases xvi
  • Abbreviations xviii
  • Introduction 1
  • Part I - Definitions 7
  • 1 - 'Voluntary Euthanasia' 9
  • 2 - Intended V. Foreseen Life-Shortening 18
  • 3 - 'Physician-Assisted Suicide' 31
  • Part II - The Ethical Debate: Human Life, Autonomy, Legal Hypocrisy, and the Slippery Slope 37
  • 4 - The Value of Human Life 39
  • 5 - The Value of Autonomy 52
  • 6 - Legal Hypocrisy? 58
  • 7 - The Slippery Slope Arguments 70
  • Part III - The Dutch Experience: Controlling Vae? Condoning Nvae? 81
  • 8 - The Guidelines 83
  • 9 - The First Survey: the Incidence of 'Euthanasia' 91
  • 10 - Breach of the Guidelines 103
  • 11 - The Slide Towards Nvae 115
  • 12 - The Second Survey 125
  • 13 - The Dutch in Denial? 136
  • Part IV - Australia and the United States 151
  • 14 - The Northern Territory: Rotti 153
  • 15 - Oregon: the Death with Dignity Act 167
  • Part V - Expert Opinion 181
  • 16 - Expert Committees 183
  • 17 - Supreme Courts 191
  • 18 - Medical Associations 208
  • Part VI - Passive Euthanasia: Withholding/withdrawing Treatment and Tube-Feeding with Intent to Kill 215
  • 19 - The Tony Bland Case 217
  • 20 - Beyond Bland: the Bma Guidance on Withholding/withdrawing Medical Treatment 239
  • 21 - The Winterton Bill 260
  • Conclusions 273
  • Afterword: the Diane Pretty Case 282
  • Bibliography 292
  • Index 303
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