Britons with Aids opt for assisted suicide

September 10, 1999

British Aids victims who choose to end their lives are more likely to seek the assistance of a friend or family member than their American or continental counterparts.

Cases of euthanasia and assisted suicides involving lethal doses of morphine administered by a third party were emerging as the preferred options in this country, according to Russel Ogden's partially completed research.

The Canadian expert has even uncovered situations in the UK where the sufferer had not given explicit consent.

"North American persons with Aids are more prone to the individualistic act of assisted suicide, whereas English persons with Aids tend to favour euthanasia, often seeming prepared to defer such an act to be made by a third party when they are no longer mentally competent," he said.

"The risk of the English approach is that it affords greater authority to third parties to make decisions for a dying person - some of the deaths involved situations where the consent of the dying person was not explicit."

Michael Carter, spokesman for the Terence Higgins Trust, said combination therapy had been effective, with the number of deaths from Aids falling from 1,679 in 1994 to 405 last year. Only in a minority of cases, mostly those where severe nervous infections and cancers occur, was death a certainty.

Mr Ogden was able to explore the situations of those who in such circumstances decide to take their own lives rather than endure a lingering decline.

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