A top medical ethicist says hallucinogenic drugs such as ecstasy or "magic mushrooms" may help terminal patients and their families through their final, painful days.
Robin Mackenzie, director of medical law and ethics at the University of Kent, says studies are underway with terminal cancer patients into the ability of such drugs to ease the process of dying and encourage closer family bonding in the final hours.
"We have the technology to enhance the experience of dying. With neuroimaging [brain scans] we can measure the impact of different practices, such as meditation or drugs, which would allow us to orchestrate our dying, just as we choose the form of a funeral service."
A study at the University of Los Angeles is due to be completed in December and research is also taking place in Spain. Mackenzie was to discuss the research at a conference in London this week organized by Exit International, an Australian organization advocating voluntary euthanasia.
Mackenzie says she can understand why doctors might not want to be involved with handing out such drugs, but says many patients want such options.
"My research into the demedicalization of dying suggests that there is a groundswell of people wanting to exercise choices in dying beyond euthanasia and palliative care options. We are encouraged to manage our lives and managing our deaths could be part of that."