One of the UK’s top surgeons has backed the right-to-die campaign by insisting that he would be willing to help terminally ill patients end their lives.
Sir Terence English, who performed the UK’s first heart transplant, has offered his support to an influential steering committee that backs assisted dying.
Sir Terence told The Sunday Times: “A doctor has responsibility first to the patient and, if I knew that patient was terminally ill, was of sound mind and hadn’t been got at by friends and relatives, I would be prepared to assist him or her.”
His comments come after director of public prosecutions Keir Starmer last year clarified the legal position on assisted dying.
The move was interpreted by many as a clear indication that friends and family were unlikely to face prosecution if motivated by compassion to help a relative or close friend with a “clear, settled and informed” wish to die.
Sir Terence, who has joined the Healthcare Professionals for Assisted Dying group, added: “I would want there to be safeguards. I would want to have a doctor who had not been involved with their care, who had been registered for five years, who would confirm mental capacity of the patient, that they were sound of mind.
“I would also wish to ascertain that no pressure had been put on him or her by the family and, if in any doubt at all, involve a psychologist.”
Sir Terence, a former president of the Royal College of Surgeons and the British Medical Association, performed the UK’s first successful heart transplant in 1979.