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Doctors in support of law reform for voluntary euthanasia

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In reply: We thank Dunne and Woodruff for comments on our Perspectives article.1 Both colleagues firmly expressed their opinions. However, we find it telling that neither mentioned consideration of their patients’ opinions and both referred to euthanasia, not voluntary euthanasia (VE), which was the subject of our article.

We agree with Dunne that “it does not seem reasonable for euthanasia to be legalised so that doctors can avoid the scrutiny of the law”. However, we are at a loss to understand his logic in suggesting that legalisation of VE would enable doctors to avoid scrutiny. Scrutiny would be enhanced by defining legal and open processes to be followed, thus satisfying Dunne’s own requirement that doctors should have their actions “subject to scrutiny to protect the public and their own moral and ethical standards”.

We accept Dunne’s personal view that titrated administration of morphine and other drugs is “safe” (notwithstanding a known failure rate with palliative care2). Indeed Dunne acknowledges that the presence of underlying pain may be required to act as an antagonist to respiratory…