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Thousands in Britain helped to die illegally, research reveals

Thousands in Britain helped to die illegally, research reveals

Nearly 3,000 patients - or eight people a day - were illegally helped to die in Britain in 2004, according to new research which claims to be the country's first authoritative study of euthanasia.

Just under half of one percent of the 585,000 deaths that year - or 2,865 cases - were assisted by doctors, the study by Professor Clive Seale, from Brunel University, western England, suggested.

An estimated one-third - or 192,000 - had their deaths accelerated by doctors using pain relief in a procedure known as the "double effect."

The figures, published in the medical journal Palliative Medicine, were extrapolated from responses to an anonymous survey of medics. A total of 857 general practitioners and hospital specialists responded.

Doctors described 0.16 percent of all deaths - or 936 cases - as voluntary euthanasia. A further 0.33 percent - or 1,929 cases - were said to be "ending life without an explicit request from the patient," or non-voluntary euthanasia.

These cases were said by Seale to involve patients very close to death who had previously indicated their wishes for euthanasia but were unable to give a specific instruction to doctors.

Both voluntary and non-voluntary euthanasia are illegal under British law.

No cases of suicide assisted by doctors were reported in the survey.

"The rate in the UK is significantly lower than in other countries where this survey has been conducted," said Seale.


Updated : 2021-04-15 03:34 GMT+08:00