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The Lancet stumbles over assisted dying

Young and senior women holding hands
Young and senior women holding hands

At long last, Richard Horton, editor-in-chief of The Lancet, appears to have made up his mind about “assisted dying” in the United Kingdom, a few days before Parliament votes on a private member’s bill this week. 

As he pointed out in the Comment section of his journal, “Careful readers of The Lancet may have noticed that we have had little to say about assisted dying (or physician-assisted suicide) in recent years. Moral cowardice? Perhaps more that we couldn’t easily make our minds up.”

Dr Horton’s article is not a ringing endorsement of the bill. But in his carefully worded assessment of its safeguards he rings no alarm bells and he underscores his perception that there is a “growing consensus” on the issue.

Altogether, it is a world away from his position in 2006. Back then, commenting on another assisted dying bill, he wrote: “A commitment to life may present troubling dilemmas to the modern physician; but a commitment to death will undermine the very nature of doctoring itself.”

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