Terminally ill patients who want to commit suicide should be able to receive medical help to die, a government adviser on care for the elderly has said.
Martin Green, a dementia expert for the Department of Health, said patients who were too frail to take their own lives were being denied “choice” and “autonomy” because assisted suicide is illegal in the UK.
In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, he urged ministers to review the law and suggested that a referendum or a free vote in Parliament should be called to settle policy on the issue.
“If you’re going to give people ‘choice’, it should extend to whether or not they want to die,” he said. “If people have got the capacity to make an informed choice then it is my view that they should be allowed to make the informed choice.”
His remarks were welcomed by campaigners for a change in the law but will fuel concerns among disability charities and Christian groups who fear that legalising assisted suicide would put elderly and disabled people under pressure to end their lives.
Mr Green, the chief executive of the English Community Care Association, which represents nursing and care home groups, is one of the country’s leading experts on support for the elderly and has advised ministers on a number of key dementia policies.