Increased longevity — thanks largely to improvements in health care and medical technology — is devoutly to be wished for, but in a sense it only puts off the inevitable: we all die, and some of us seem to make a better end than others. How much choice should we have about how and when we go? How do we know when someone is competent to make such a decision and who else, if anyone, should be involed? What criteria matter most in making the decision?
Euthanasia is a standard topic in philosophical ethics classes and the arguments are well-known. Yet behind them there are real people and real policies; at the sharp end there are terminally ill patients, their families and those who treat them.
Baroness Finlay of Llandaff is Professor of Palliative Medicine at Cardiff University’s Medical School and a crossbench member of the House of Lords. She chairs the All Party Parliamentary Group on Dying Well, a group of peers that opposes calls for the liberalisation of the law on euthanasia and works as a consultant caring for terminally ill cancer patients.