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As India debates, UK docs consistently opposed to euthanasia

British doctors have consistently opposed both active and passive euthanasia, a review of research conducted over 20 years, to be published in a top medical journal on Thursday suggests.

delhi Updated: Mar 10, 2011 08:37 IST
Charu Sudan Kasturi

British doctors have consistently opposed both euthanasia and assisted suicide, a review of research spread over 20 years suggests, a team of scientists have said in findings published on Thursday in the journal Palliative Medicine.

The research comes at a time when euthanasia is a topic of discussion across Indian living rooms following the Supreme Court's landmark verdict on Monday allowing passive euthanasia but barring active euthanasia.

The paper published in Palliative Medicine is the first systematic review looking at attitudes of UK doctors. The review studied attitudes towards both euthanasia and a doctor intentionally killing a person by administering drugs at the person's request and physician-assisted suicide (PAS), defined as a doctor providing a person fatal drugs to help him commit suicide.

The review found that UK doctors opposed euthanasia according to findings of 10 out of 11 studies on the subject, while doctors were against PAS in eight out of 10 studies on the subject.

One of the strongest predictors of a doctor's unwillingness was religiosity, the researchers have said, with the faithfully religious less likely to consider assisting death or supporting its introduction in the UK.

The SC order on euthanasia has triggered afresh a similar debate in India, both within the medical community and among ordinary citizens and policy makers.

The order came on a plea from an activist Pinki Virani seeking permission to withdraw life support systems and drugs from Aruna Shanbaug, a former hospital nurse who has been in a vegetative state for over three decades after she was raped by a hospital ward boy.

Virani's plea on the grounds that Shanbaug had already suffered enough and was rejected by the SC on the grounds that she had no locus to appeal.

Nurses and other staff members at Mumbai's KEM Hospital where Shanbaug worked and has been treated since she slipped into coma --have taken care of the former nurse, and told the SC they were keen on continuing to support Shanbaug.