Dangers of euthanasia spelt out

Many older people could be subjected to subtle pressures to end their lives prematurely if voluntary euthanasia was made lawful in this country, Baroness Prof Ilora Finlay warned in Dunedin yesterday.

Prof Finlay, a Welsh palliative care specialist, said legalising medically assisted euthanasia and assisted suicide was likely to have significant unintended consequences.

In the Netherlands, where euthanasia was lawful, one in 45 of all deaths was now physician-assisted.

The rate of physician-assisted deaths had also risen significantly in Oregon, in the United States, since this had been legalised.

Asked about widespread problems of elder abuse, Prof Finlay said there were many subtle ways to undermine the confidence of older people, who might feel they no longer wished to be a “burden” to younger relatives, or to spend money which their relatives might otherwise inherit.

There were “dangers of subtle coercive influence” which could not be detected by others.

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