Research from the UK

Voluntary and non-voluntary euthanasia in the UK

In 2009 Professor Clive Seale published research which examined the end-of-life decisions made by doctors[1]. His research was the first of its kind and demonstrates that voluntary euthanasia and non-voluntary euthanasia is practiced in the UK. It currently goes on without safeguards.

  • 0.21% of life was ended with an explicit request from the patient, in other words, voluntary euthanasia.
  • 0.30% of life was ended without an explicit request from the patient, in other words, non-voluntary euthanasia.

 

Hastening end-of-life

In 2009 Professor Clive Seale published research which found that a ‘significant minority’ of doctors reported making decisions that they think will hasten the death of a patient[2]. In a third of cases (277 out of 2,809), doctors said that they withheld/withdrew treatment or used a drug to alleviate pain to control symptoms with the intention or expectation of hastening the end-of-life.

  • 28.9% of decisions involved the expectation to hasten the end-of- life. 7.4% of decisions involved the intention to hasten the end-of- life.
  • 9.8% of patients verbally expressed a request for the end of his or her life to be hastened. In the majority of cases (74%) the request stayed consistent.

 

Suicide

In 2011 the think-tank, Demos, published research which looked at the impact of terminal and chronic illness on suicide[3]. This was the first research of its kind. The evidence they collected from coroners and Primary Care Trusts showed that approximately 10% of suicides that take place in England involve people with either a chronic or terminal illness. In 2009 there were 4390 suicides in England, so an estimated 439 people with a terminal illness may have taken their own lives in that year.

 

References

Seale C (2009) End-of-life decisions in the UK involving medical practitioners Palliative Medicine 23: 198-204

Seale C (2009) Hastening death in end-of-life care: A survey of doctors Social Science & Medicine 69(11): 1659-66

Bazalgette L, Bradley W, and Ousbey J, “The Truth About Suicide”, Demos, 2011.