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St Mary’s Conference Inspires New Bioethics Book

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A new book stemming from a conference held at St Mary’s University, Twickenham is being published this week from Cambridge University Press.

Edited by Profs David Jones and Calum Mackellar, both members of staff at the Centre for Bioethics and Emerging Technologies at St Mary’s and Prof Chris Gastmans from Leuven University, Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide: Lessons from Belgium explores in depth what the effects have been in Belgium of the legalisation of doctors ending patients’ lives or assisting them to do so.

The book reports that monitoring of cases in Belgium is far from optimal with just 16 members of the euthanasia commission overseeing thousands of euthanasia cases, the numbers of which have risen sharply since 2002 when euthanasia was legalised.

The authors express concern that more and more cases of euthanasia of those not specifically requesting it are being carried out as well an increasing numbers of cases being of patients with psychiatric illness or of those just “tired of life”. They quote a leading palliative care doctor sympathetic to euthanasia, who warned in 2013 that “once the barrier of legalisation is passed, [euthanasia] tends to develop a dynamic of its own and extend beyond agreed restrictions.”

Dr Trevor Stammers, Co-Director of the Centre for Bioethics and Emerging Technologies has a chapter in the book about organ donation following euthanasia.

Speaking of the book, Dr Stammers said, “I share the concern of many close observers of what is happening in Belgium that organ transplantation from those agreeing to donate organs after requesting euthanasia can easily lead to other vulnerable people perceiving pressure to end their lives in order that others may have their organs.

“Furthermore some bioethicists are already suggesting that euthanasia of cases willing to donate should be carried out by organ removal instead of lethal injection, so that organ preservation can be optimised before transplantation.”

Details of the book, for which a launch will be held at St Mary’s on November 3rd at 5.30pm, can be found on


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