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

By John Keown | Go to book overview

18
Medical associations

To please no one will I prescribe a deadly drug, nor give advice which may cause his death.

The Hippocratic Oath1

Maintaining a tradition dating from the Hippocratic Oath in the fifth century BC forbidding doctors to give any deadly poison to patients, even if asked, the vast majority of medical associations oppose both VAE and PAS. This is reflected by the policy of the World Medical Association. In May 2001, in the wake of the passage of the Dutch euthanasia legislation, the WMA reaffirmed its strong belief that euthanasia conflicts with basic ethical principles of medical practice and called on doctors to refrain from participating in it, even when it is permitted by national law.2 The previous chapter outlined decisions of Supreme Courts in the UK, Canada and the USA. This chapter will outline the policies of their respective medical associations.


The British Medical Association

The BMA has consistently opposed VAE and PAS. In 1987, in response to a motion passed at its Annual Representative Meeting (ARM) the previous year urging the Association to reconsider its opposition, the Association set up a working party under the chairmanship of Sir Henry Yellowlees, a former Chief Medical Officer at the Department of Health. The Working Party identified four major arguments for VAE.3 Thefirst–respectfor autonomy – was rejected on the ground that autonomy has limits. The second – the desire for a kind death – was countered by the fact that

____________________
1
Reproduced in J. K. Mason and R. A. Mc Call Smith,Law and Medical Ethics (5th edn, 1999) 551.
2
Veronica English, Jessica Gardner, Gillian Romano-Critchley and Ann Sommer ville,'Legislation on Euthanasia' (2001) 27 J Med Ethics 284.
3
Euthanasia: Report of the Working Party to Review the British Medical Association's Guidance on Euthanasia (1988) 39.

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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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