Assisted suicide: regulatory issues

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Some of you may find this web video of interest:

Video assisted suicide: regulatory issues

Professor Sir Graeme Catto (Chairman, Better Regulation Group, Universities UK and past President of the GMC) discusses the regulatory issues surrounding the ethics of assisted suicide, and the role of the GMC in the debate. This lecture was filmed at an event called: ‘The ethics of assisted suicide’.


“We believe a high level meeting can make a genuine contribution to the current debate. The meeting will allow senior figures on all sides of the debate to give their view in a way that will enable reasoned consideration of the complex issues and conflicts involved. The meeting will be strongly chaired but will allow interaction in a structured way without being hijacked by any one point of view.”The current debate on assisted suicide too often generates more heat than light. This meeting will give an opportunity for those concerned to consider the issues and to listen to one another in a safe and reflective environment. The meeting will be open both to doctors and to the lay public. Any who wish to learn about the complexities of the issue, to listen to the views of others and to debate with others within an environment of mutual respect will be welcome. The meeting will be of particular interest to all doctors dealing with those who are dying, and to ethicists.”

Debbie Purdy outside the Houses of Parliment

For more information on this event, click here.

About the author

Prof G

Professor of Neurology, Barts & The London. MS & Preventive Neurology thinker, blogger, runner, vegetable gardener, husband, father, cook and wine & food lover.

10 comments

  • I think Debbie Purdy is a terrible poster-woman for MS. This isn’t entirely her fault. The media have been very good making her the face of MS and she has been happy to play into that. I’m pretty certain most MSers want better health and palliative care than assisted death, though there are some who want the option to end their life when they feel the disease is too much for them to cope with.

    My worry has always been that Parliament may view assisted suicide as a quick way to rebalance the demands of an aging and sicklier population: a population that is proving too costly to maintain. I also worry that rather than trying to cure MS, the attention will revert to culling numbers.

    The onus is on the MSer. Either fight or die. I would rather go down having tried my best to stay on top of this disease rather than being known as someone who took a cheap flight to Switzerland and swallowed a cup of barbiturate to ease my suffering. That’s too simplistic and ends for the complex living conditions imposed by MS.

    I will say, however, the strides that have been made in treating MS are woefully insufficient. Considering that we put men on the moon almost 50 years ago, which was a hugely complex achievement, the incurable and largely untreatable nature of progressive MS is unacceptable in this day and age.

  • Sandra,
    It shows that putting a man on the moon is a lot easier than curing MS but over recent years the pace of research and prospects of real change are speeding up year on year. It's the nature of science I'm afraid and for MSers progress will always be too slow.

  • Re – “It shows that putting a man on the moon is a lot easier than curing MS…”

    Do you really think so MD2, or is it a matter of money? When Kennedy came to power in 1961, he made the moon mission a top priority, allocating $10 billion in those days to achieve that. Don’t you think comparable sums (adjusted for inflation) may perhaps alleviate numerous neurological diseases? Will more money help in cracking MS?

    On a side note, assisted suicide is a depressing topic. Debbie Purdy has a lot of responsibility for blurring the focus of MS related coverage and painting it as a hopeless disease. Sure, I accept she has progressive MS but there are more people living fulfilling lives with PPMS than those wanting to die. I actually find Debbie Purdy to be a scary icon for disease. She does nothing but complain. While I admit her suffering is more pronounced than many others living with MS, I do feel her talents will be better served fighting for better care.

  • Why do we think that people who suffer to the very end with progressive MS are the heroes? The cost of doing so (to the economy, your dignity and your loved ones is massive).

    My GP told me that NMD is the worse and advanced MS a close second. He said that if he was diagnosed with either he'd need to call it a day before he lost the ability to end it himself. I totally agree with him.

    The way out of this debate is treatments that stop people getting into situations like Debbie P. Fingers crossed that someone out there can deliver the goods.

  • Re: "Why do we think that people who suffer to the very end with progressive MS are the heroes?"

    This is not about progressive MS, but the person with the disease. Despite being very disabled (EDSS 9.0) Charles has maintained his quality of life; remarried, written books, held photographic exhibitions, etc.

  • "I have been promising to visit Charles Fox at his home in Bolinas (Northern California) for several years now; I need to get there sooner than later."

    Prof G, I hope you make this a priority. Mr. Fox is truly an MS hero. In fact, he is one of modern history's heroes. It's men like hime who inspire writers, filmmakers and dramatists to tell stories about amazing people. He is inspiring.

By Prof G

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