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Debate: euthanasia--a physician's viewpoint.
  1. R G Twycross


    Discussion about euthanasia is often confused because of a failure to distinguish between deliberate death acceleration and letting nature take its course. There is a need to reiterate the traditional principles upon which the care of the dying should be based, including the need for the doctor to practise medicine in the knowledge that eventually all his patients will die. It follows that a doctor does not have a duty to preserve life at all costs. The care of the patient with far-advanced cancer has improved considerably in many areas as a result of the establishment of hospices and domiciliary support teams. Treating the patient as a person is the key to a successful doctor-patient relationship. An analytical approach is necessary to control pain and other symptoms. Care of the relatives is also fundamental. Voluntary euthanasia and 'assisted suicide' represent an extreme solution to a situation which demands a far more comprehensive and compassionate approach. The need is not for a change in the law but for a change of emphasis in medical education.

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