The tendency of voluntary euthanasia to become compulsory has been demonstrated not only in Holland, where doctors now kill far more of their patients than the law allows, without their permission, but here in Britain. Last week, in The Lancet, a group of eminent doctors called for the active killing of patients in the so-called persistent vegetative state (PVS), that their organs might be used for transplantation to save the lives of others. The end, it is rather cavalierly supposed, will justify the means.
Unfortunately, it is possible for doctors - even the most eminent ones - to make mistakes, and in the very same issue of The Lancet in which the appeal is made for doctors to be allowed to cull their patients for their spare parts, there are two letters questioning the reliability and even the definition of the diagnosis of the PVS. Mistakes, it seems, are inevitable; and some people who would otherwise recover to a greater or lesser extent will be killed for their kidneys or their corneas. Ends which justify the means often have a nasty habit of turning out to be not so desirable after all.
... We have slid down quite enough slippery slopes in the past three decades without seeking out the slipperiest of them all: mercy killing.
This article is an excerpt of an editorial in The Sunday Telegraph of November 2, 1997.