Suicide drugs over the counter if assisted dying is legalised

05/06/2011 06:20

Christian Institute

Suicide drugs could be available over the counter in chemists if assisted suicide is legalised, two of Britain’s top legal and medical experts have warned.

Weakening the law could open the way for nurses and pharmacists to prescribe drugs to help people kill themselves, according to a report by Lord Carlile QC and Baroness Finlay.

The report, commissioned by think-tank Living and Dying Well, also warned that legalising assisted suicide could lead to state agencies being set up to decide whether or not people should be helped to die.

Doctor shopping

Lord Carlile, the Government-appointed independent assessor of terror legislation, and Baroness Finlay, Professor of Palliative Care at Cardiff University, are co-chairs of Living and Dying Well.

The report cautions that assisted suicide rules currently being pushed by campaigners would lead to “doctor shopping”, where patients wanting to die or facing pressure to die would go from doctor to doctor in a bid to find one willing to help.

It also warns that if doctors were given legal powers to provide drugs to help patients die, such powers would also be extended to nurses and pharmacists.


“There is no reason why, if assisted dying were ever to be legalised, lethal drugs could not be prescribed by a physician, nurse or pharmacist, acting outside the parameters of health care.”

The report states that prescriptions might be written by those “under contract to an official assessment agency”.

It warned: “Embedding ‘assisted dying’ in health care could easily encourage patients who are less than wholehearted about the project to suppose that it is like any other medical treatment, that it is being offered for their good and that, notwithstanding any reservations they may feel about it, it is probably for the best – otherwise why would any doctor agree to proceed with it?”


In October a report from a leading think-tank warned that the weakest members of society will be most at risk if the law on assisted suicide is changed.

Cristina Odone’s report for the Centre for Policy Studies cautioned that such a change could lead some of society’s most defenceless members to feel that they have an obligation to end their lives.

The report cautioned: “As assisted suicide becomes embedded in our culture, investing resources in caring for these vulnerable groups will be seen as a waste: they’ll be gone.


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