In his letter published in the April issue (BCMJ 2014;56:124-125), Dr John Dale claims there are errors of fact and logic in my letter on assisted suicide (BCMJ 2014;56:6) but fails to show what they are. It seems that Dr Dale failed to read my letter correctly. I had stated that the slippery slope argument was not what I was discussing. However, commenting on that topic, Dr Dale provides evidence that the slippery slope is an active concern by claiming that many articles show how to avoid it through legal checks and balances. The wishful thinking in such articles fits the general principles so well described by Brian L. Mishara and David N. Weisstub:
In debates about euthanasia and assisted suicide, it is rare to find an article that begins with an expression of neutral interest and then proceeds to examine the various arguments and data before drawing conclusions based upon the results of a scholarly investigation. Although authors frequently give the impression of being impartial in their introduction, they invariably reach their prior conclusions.
Dr Dale further describes that I made an error of logic in predicting the influence that assisted suicide would have on people who consider themselves a burden on others. In an attempt to prove that assisted suicide would have no influence, he compared it to termination of pregnancy. It is his comparison that is illogical, and it is an attempt to play on the loyalties of people who feel strongly about a different issue in order to gain support for assisted suicide, rather than to shine light on the subject with an accurate comparison. What is unique about terminal illness is that people frequently find themselves increasingly dependent and consider themselves a burden on those around them.
Most strikingly, Dr Dale ends his letter by suggesting his motive for writing it, revealing he would like the opportunity to make use of assisted suicide. It is continuously a temptation for us as physicians to use our substantial professional influence to further our own priorities rather than to consider the good of our community.
—Allan Donkin, MD
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