Assisting a patient’s suicide is not part of a doctor’s role.

“Laws have to be designed to work safely in the real world,” writes Baroness Finlay in The Times

In an article in The Times, “Doctors must have nothing to do with suicide of patients” (£), published the day after Lord Falconer presented his ‘assisted dying’ Private Member’s bill to Parliament, Professor of Palliative Medicine Baroness Finlay explores why most doctors and their professional bodies are opposed to legalisation.

She quotes the Royal College of Physicians that a doctor’s duty of care for patients “does not include being in any way part of their suicide” – a view, says Baroness Finlay, which is “strongly endorsed” by her colleagues who specialise in care of the dying.

Terminally ill people are vulnerable.  “Few are like those high profile individuals whose will is so certain that they have taken to the courts or the airwaves to fight for a ‘right to die'”.

The so-called safeguards, argues Baroness Finlay, assume the existence of a perfect world – a world of self-confident and strong-minded patients, of doctors who know them well and of relatives who are invariably loving and caring.

The real world just isn’t like that, writes Baroness Finlay.  “Most families are caring but over the years I have come across apparently loving relatives who turned out to be nothing of the sort”.  And, she adds, “even in the most loving families there is such a thing as carer fatigue”.

“Laws have to be designed to work safely in the real world.  Of course we must feel compassion for a small number of seriously ill people who are clear that they want to end their lives.  But we must consider the harm that changing the law could bring to many more vulnerable people”.