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Two thirds of doctors acknowledge they may be shortening patients

Tuesday 7 March 2006

Two thirds of doctors acknowledge they may be shortening patients’ lives –New report analyses latest trends and evidence in end of life decisions

The most comprehensive and up-to-date international and domestic evidence on assisted dying has today been published in a report by Dignity in Dying, the leading campaign body for patient choice within end of life medical treatment decisions.

The report includes new research by GP NET (NOP) showing 62 per cent of GPs believe doctors sometimes administer pain relief medication to terminally ill patients, knowing that it may hasten death. The report analyses the case of North East GP, Dr Howard Martin, who last year was acquitted on three charges of murdering patients through overdoses of opioids.

Dignity in Dying Chief Executive Deborah Annetts said,

“This new finding confirms how frequently doctors are intimately involved with end of life decisions, and how slender the distinction is between what a doctor intends and what he knows but does not intend when he administers pain relief. The law is so opaque that doctors are constantly at risk of being charged and yet ironically, the law gives itself little chance of detecting or prosecuting abuse.”

The Dignity in Dying Report sets out the research and developments around assisted dying over the past three years. It is aimed at medical and legal professionals, academics, researchers and students who want to examine the facts behind the rapidly developing field of end of life law and decision-making.

It includes research into end-of-life decisions made by doctors and attitudes to assisted dying in the UK, as well as international information and experience in countries that have legislated for assisted dying.

Dignity in Dying Chief Executive Deborah Annetts added,

“Dignity in Dying has no political or religious affiliations. We place great importance in sound research, evidence and methodology, and this report, like all of our work, is underpinned by these principles. This report shows how the law on assisted suicide is working, and the consequences it is having on people’s lives.”

The report sets out the latest version of the Assisted Dying for the Terminally Ill Bill, which is shortly to receive its Second Reading in the House of Lords.


Media calls to Mark Slattery (020 7937 8721) and Davina Hehir (020 7937 7781).

The Dignity in Dying Report is available from Dignity in Dying on 0870 777 7868 or at a cost of £14.95.