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 Friday, 24 January, 2003, 16:27 GMT
Doctors 'back euthanasia'
Mr Crew travelled to Switzerland to end his life
More than half of doctors believe terminally-ill people should be allowed to seek medical help to die, a internet survey suggests.

However, just one in three believe the government should change the law to allow physician-assisted suicide in the UK.

The poll also reveals that two out of five have been asked by a patient to help them die.

The law in the UK clearly doesn't work

Deborah Annetts, Voluntary Euthanasia Society
The findings are based on a survey of over 1,000 doctors registered on the medical website Medix-UK on behalf of the Voluntary Euthanasia Society.

It follows the death earlier this week of 74-year-old Reginald Crew from Liverpool. He travelled to Switzerland for help to die.

Helping someone to die is punishable by 14 years in prison under British law.

Merseyside police have said they are not planning to question Mr Crew's wife Win but will be investigating the matter.

Law change

The Voluntary Euthanasia Society said the survey results showed the government should change the law.

Deborah Annetts, its chief executive, said: "55% of UK doctors believe that someone in Reginald Crew's position, with a terminal illness and uncontrollable physical suffering, should be allowed to have a physician assisted suicide.

"The vast majority of the British public support what Win has done and back a change in the law. Whatever the law says, in most people's view, Win isn't a criminal.

"Even if this case comes to court no judge will give anyone involved a custodial sentence. The law in the UK clearly doesn't work."

She added: "This original research shows the government's position is simply barbaric and this level of suffering should not be allowed to continue.

"They must act now by changing the law to allow terminally ill adults the option of choosing medical help to die here in the UK, under proper safeguards."

The British Medical Association said it had no figures the proportion of doctors who support euthanasia.

But in a statement, it added: "The BMA membership has repeatedly debated physician assisted suicide and euthanasia and has consistently rejected the legalisation of them."

Anti-euthanasia groups say a change in the law would make people vulnerable and cheapen the value of life.

See also:

24 Jan 03 | England
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