JUDGING by the results of the Royal College of Physicians’ survey of its members on ‘assisted dying’, the moral world British hospital doctors inhabit would seem to be shifting towards the creepy hedonistic dystopia Aldous Huxley portrayed in his 1932 novel Brave New World.
The RCP Council’s decision to conduct the survey after announcing in January a ‘neutral stance’ on euthanasia was controversial. The evidence of that was in the correspondence last week in The Times from various doctors following Melanie Phillips’s article in the paper on Monday, headlined ‘We risk turning doctors into executioners – the Royal College of Physicians is stealthily promoting a change in the law on assisted suicide’.
But the RCP survey results, announced last Thursday, seem to be clear enough. Asked what stance the RCP should adopt, 43.4 per cent of respondents thought it should be opposed to a change in the law on assisted dying, compared with 44.4 per cent when the survey was last conducted in 2014. The percentage wanting the RCP to support a change in the law increased to 31.6 from 24.6, and 25 per cent thought the RCP should be neutral.
Asked whether they personally supported a change in the law on euthanasia, RCP fellows and members in favour of such a change increased to 40.5 per cent from 32.3 per cent, while those opposing it fell from 57.5 per cent to 49.1 per cent. The survey was completed by 6,885 respondents from more than 30 specialities.
So, it would seem to be the case that British hospital doctors are moving towards a position of moral neutrality about, or support for, the idea of killing terminally ill patients.
Just how creepy ‘assisted dying’ is has been compellingly described by palliative care doctor Dr Kathryn Mannix in her 2017 book, With the End in Mind, How to Live and Die Well (William Collins). She described how one of her patients, whilst working for an oil company in Rotterdam, was diagnosed with terminal bowel cancer. At his hospital bedside a medical professor told him: ‘Here in the Netherlands, there is an extra choice for you. If you would not like to live like that, then we have euthanasia. Do you understand?’
Thereafter, Dr Mannix’s patient ‘began to dread the ward rounds, to fear the relentless cheer of benevolent voices that offered antibiotics to some, physiotherapy to others, and death to him’.
So, thank the good Lord, he came to England where his mother lived, bringing his Dutch wife and young daughter, and died naturally in the love of his family in Dr Mannix’s hospice.
Memo to the Mrs: please, when my moment comes, the last words on this earth I want to hear are not the trendy accents of the new moral breed of hospital doctor as he or she administers the lethal dose but the Collect for Aid against all Perils in the Book of Common Prayer:
LIGHTEN our darkness, we beseech thee, O Lord; and by thy great mercy defend us from all perils and dangers of this night; for the love of thy only Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen.