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Last Updated: Monday, 12 February 2007, 16:23 GMT
Head to head: Right-to-die case
Kelly Taylor and her husband Richard.
Kelly Taylor wants to die
A 30-year-old terminally ill woman is to launch a legal battle to force doctors to allow her to die.

Kelly Taylor, from Bristol, who has been given less than a year to live, wants doctors to increase her medication to induce a coma-like state.

Here, two commentators give their views on what could turn out to be a very substantial case.

Dr Tony Calland, British Medical Association

"I agree with the principle of double effect (giving drugs to relieve pain and suffering which may shorten life as a side effect) but that's not quite the whole story in this case.

"As I understand it, the patient wants the administration of a very significant amount of morphine to make her unconscious.

"And when she is unconscious and therefore has no capacity she has already made an advanced directive which will instruct her medical team not to give her life-sustaining nutrition and hydration.

"So that while she is unconscious she will be allowed to die through lack of nutrition and hydration.

"That is a very different issue because it would be tantamount to the doctors administering the treatment to make her unconscious as a deliberate act, knowing she would die rather than using the double effect principle.

"We have to look at the rights of doctors not to be put in the position that would make them subject to the laws of manslaughter or murder.

"I understand that this is a very sad case but since Hippocrates there has been a tradition of trust between patients and doctors and they will always do their very best to keep their patients alive and make them better.

"Any move away from that absolute principle will certainly mean considerable amount of more difficulty for doctors trying to do the best for their patients but also do not want to end up being subject to being penalised by the law."

Deborah Arnotts, chief executive of Dignity in Dying

"The pain relief that Kelly is currently receiving is not adequate to deal with the level of her suffering so she's asking that doctors increase her level of pain relief.

"She's doing that on the basis of the principle of double effect which is already very well established as a medical practice.

"One in three deaths are as a result of doctors administering life shortening medication.

"The difference here is she is saying I want to have control over when pain relief medication which will foreshorten my life is given to me. It's actually about patient choice.

"Doctors already give medication that will foreshorten life and that is perfectly legal under the principle of double effect.

"What Kelly would like most is to have control and choice over the manner of her death.

"Her suffering is unbearable.

"What she is saying is I also have a living will which will take effect should the morphine put me into deep sedation and living wills are legal - we all have the right to refuse treatment.

"What Kelly is saying is it's not down to doctors to make these decisions, it should be down to the patient."


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