Page 1, 28th February 1969

28th February 1969
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Page 1, 28th February 1969 — Bat tie begins for legalised euthanasia
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Bat tie begins for legalised euthanasia

BY A STAFF REPORTER

ADRAFT BILL providing for euthanasia by consent is being prepared by the Euthanasia Society. Executives of the society will meet on March 6 to clarify the scope of the draft Bill. They will also plan a campaign which they hope will result in the draft's introduction into Parliament.

Although the Euthanasia Society claims to have M.P.s among its supporters it is not known how much Parliamentary backing the proposed Bill will receive.

Mr. Tom Vernon, Press officer for the British Humanist Association, said this week that opinion among the group of about 40 Humanist M.P.s would tend to vary. Some members would not be in favour of euthanasia, but by and large most members of the group could be expected to support voluntary euthanasia in principle.

There are several known supporters of the Euthanasia Society in the House of Lords, including Lord Francis Williams, the well-known journalist.

Request in advance

The draft Bill, as it stands, would make it lawful for a doctor to administer euthanasia to a patient requesting it so long as the patient had been certified as suffering from an incurable condition by two other doctors, one of them a consultant.

It would. also enable patients to request in advance the administration of euthanasia in the event of their suffering from an incurable condition at a later date.

Such a declaration would come into force 30 days after being made and would remain in force during the life of the person unless eevoked.

`We shall resist'

Opposition to the draft Bill is likely to be Ied by a new society at present in the process of organisation. This society. which has Mr. Norman St. John-Stevas as its chairman, will be called "Human Rights."

Mr. St. John-Stevas said this week: "The proposals contained in this draft Bill are blood-curdling and exactly the sort of thing we had anticipated. We shall resist them." Another Catholic M.P., Mr. John Biggs-Davidson, said: "At the time of the controversy over the Abortion Bill a number of us predicted that if the abortion law reformers had their way it would not be long before we were presented with a measure to legalise euthanasia.

"If it becomes lawful to kill with the consent of the person concerned, will the next step be for euthanasia on social grounds," he said.

The Catholic doctors guild will also oppose any measure aimed at legalising euthanasia. Dr. J. G. Frost, secretary of the guild, said: "I am quite certain that medical opinion, Catholic or not, is generally against euthanasia." He felt that modern advances in drugs and medicine had obviated many of the grounds on which the Euthanasia Society bases its case.

The draft Bill also proposes that a person who has made a provisional euthanasia declaration could wear a metal token or carry a card so that his or her wishes would be respected.

A conscience clause respects the rights of nurses and physicians opposed on principle to euthanasia. Patients would be entitled to be kept completely unconscious if they wished.

Anyone concealing, destroying or falsifying a euthanasia declaration would face life imprisonment, and an accessory would face seven years' imprisonment. A physician or nurse administering euthanasia would not be in breach of any professional oath and euthanasia would not, except in limited circumstances, invalidate any insurance policy.

The Minister of Health would be empowered to make regulations specifying who were or were not entitled to witness a declaration, and for any other purpose.




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