Celebrating The New – Not Seeing Off The Old: The Falconer Commission

Dec 29, 2011 | Uncategorized


Baroness Hollins – President Elect of the BMA condemns Falconer Proposals: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/8995355/Sick-people-need-help-to-live-not-help-to-die.html
The Telegraph View (editotrial comment) : http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/telegraph-view/8995267/The-euthanasia-lobby-fails-to-make-its-case.html. ——————————————————————————————————
Jean Rostand, the French biologist, said: “For my part I believe that there is no life so degraded, debased, deteriorated, or impoverished that it does not deserve respect and is not worth defending with zeal and conviction.
I have the weakness to believe that it is an honour for our society to desire the expensive luxury of sustaining life for its useless, incompetent and incurably ill members. I would almost measure society’s degree of civilisation by the amount of effort and vigilance it imposes on itself out of pure respect for life.”

What Falconer does not tell us about assisted suicide: http://bit.ly/xLbG4L
Lord Falconer’s bent jury on ‘assisted dying’ – the full line up exposed – http://bit.ly/tP0HNg
What about Dignity in Living? http://archbishop-cranmer.blogspot.com/
Lord Falconer should fool nobody (George Pitcher, Daily Mail)
Douglas noble on the Falconer report (BMJ Blog)

My donkey body (Michael Wenhan blog)

Lord Falconer’s safeguards will not make assisted suicide any safer (Madelaine Teahan, Catholic Herald)

Falconer recommends judging other people’s lives (Pro life alliance)

Assisted Dying (Nick Baines, restless Bishop)
Statement from the Church of England
Introduction to the Falconer Report (Glyn Davies MP)
Scope comment:

Ancient Briton blog:
Vic the Vicar:
Lord Falconer and his sham commission could lead to 13,000 deaths a year (Dr Peter Saunders, Daily Mail):

Proposed assisted dying inadequate (Dr John Wiles):
Celebrating The New – Not Seeing Off The Old
The New Year is ushered in by Father Time, who derives from the Greek God Chronos, more commonly known as the Grim Reaper. A fitting moment, you might think, for the publication of the findings of Lord Falconer’s Commission on Assisted Dying.
Hopelessly biased and distorted, the Falconer Commission is stacked full of euthanasia sympathisers and was suggested by Dignity in Dying (formerly The Voluntary Euthanasia Society). Note the change in name, and never concede that, to die with dignity, you need a doctor to kill you.
The funding for the Commission was provided by Bernard Lewis and Terry Pratchett, the latter a patron of Dignity in Dying. It is entirely wedded to introducing legalisation for assisted suicide for those who are terminally ill.
Over 50 organizations refused to give evidence to the Commission when they saw its composition. Instead, Dignity in Dying contacted its own members asking them to give evidence to the Commission. The British Medical Association (BMA) passed a 5 point resolution that undermined the Commission credibility by questioning its impartiality and independence.
When the Commission was established it was revealed that nine of the twelve commissioners were well-known names in the pro-legalisation lobby. The remaining three are certainly not against euthanasia. The euthanasia lobby decided to take the ‘independent’ route because when two genuinely independent Parliamentary Select Committees carefully examined the issue they did not recommend a change of law. When votes were then taken in the House of Lords it resulted in large defeats for their proposals (148-100 and 194-141). The last attempt at legalization in Scotland also resulted in a heavy defeat (85-16) for Margo Macdonald’s Bill in 2010.
For the record, and to give some idea of the scale of the parliamentary Inquiry, the Select Committee covered some 246 Hansard columns and two volumes of 744 pages and 116 pages respectively, 15 oral sessions, 48 groups or individuals giving evidence, with 88 witnesses giving written evidence; 2,460 questions were asked and the committee receiving 14,000 letters. Compare the coverage given by the BBC and others to the parliamentary Inquiry with the media circus and feeding frenzy generated by the Falconer Commission.
An unbiased and impartial account of this debate might mention the opposition to a change in the law expressed in Parliament – predominantly on the grounds of public safety – and by the British Medical Association, the Royal Colleges, the hospices and Disability Rights Organisations – who eloquently set out all the negative outcomes which would result from a change in the law.
Instead, we are treated to a barrage of propaganda . Even the BBC’s Radio Times has joined the pack, claiming on its cover that watching a man die in Switzerland would be “5 minutes of television that will change our lives”.
The sub editor who chose that caption perhaps failed to appreciate its irony: that the 5 minutes it took to change our lives, irredeemably ended another’s life.

The BBC are in danger of being reduced to the role of mere cheerleaders, producing five programmes in the past three years in favour of a change, while signally failing to present the other side of the argument. But this isn’t just about bias.
The BBC’s recent programmes celebrating assisted suicide not only break their own Code about providing balance when discussing ethical issues but, even more seriously, they also breach the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) guidelines, published in 2000.
The WHO clearly set out the responsibilities and duties of the media. Consider some of these strictures in the context of the programme featuring Terry Pratchett and the euthanasia centre in Switzerland.
The WHO begin by reminding the media of the incredible impact which it can have in informing attitudes and behaviour:
“Media strongly influence community attitudes… media can also play an active role in the prevention of suicide.”
The WHO points to the way in which television can negatively influence suicidal behaviour. One study showed an increase in the number of suicides for up to 10 days after television news reports of cases of suicide.
They also warn against publicising suicide stories where celebrities are involved and warn against sensational coverage – which they argue should be assiduously avoided. The coverage should be minimized to the greatest possible extent possible. The WHO is right when it says:
“Suicide is perhaps the most tragic way of ending one’s life. The majority of people who consider suicide are ambivalent. They are not sure that they want to die. One of the many factors that may lead a vulnerable individual to suicide could be publicity about suicides in the media. How the media report on suicide cases can influence other suicides.”

In line with these WHO guidelines I would expect to see is a sober and balanced assessment of the issues, not cheap voyeuristic programmes which could easily form part of the genre known as “snuff” movies. A person’s death should not be a form of prime time entertainment, part of the battle for programme ratings – dressed up in the name of a hollow compassion.

In this country 550,000 people die each year. Very rarely do any make the newspapers or the media. Why does one lethal cocktail – but not 549,999 deaths – warrant wall to wall campaigning coverage?
Macmillan nurses, hospices and palliative care give the overwhelming majority in Britain a dignified death which does not involve commissioning doctors and nurses as patient killers. By all means agitate for improvement where the provision or practice isn’t good enough but let the BBC end this one sided and relentless campaign.
The Falconer Commission’s findings might be dismissed as propaganda but it would be foolish to underestimate the determination of little cliques and elites determined to manipulate public opinion and law.
And consider what is at stake.
Chillingly, Baroness Warnock, who shaped the laws which have led to the destruction of millions of human embryos, has said that the sick are “wasting people’s lives” because of the care they require: “If you’re demented, you’re wasting people’s lives – your family’s lives – and you’re wasting the resources of the National Health Service.” Suggesting that we have a “duty to dieshe said “I think that’s the way the future will go, putting it rather brutally, you’d be licensing people to put others down.”
This turns the argument into a worth based on someone’s economic value rather than on their true human value and their human dignity.
And in case you think “putting people down” just “couldn’t happen here” consider the situation in Holland.
Just before Christmas the Dutch announced that they are considering mobile units to kill people in their own homes. 1,000 of the 4,000 euthanasia deaths in Holland each year are now done without the patient’s consent. Not content with this, the Dutch say that 80% of people with dementia or mental illnesses are being ‘missed’ by the country’s euthanasia laws. They say that the death-on-wheels mobile units are necessary because some GPs have refused to administer lethal drugs to their patients.
This isn’t giving people “dignity in dying”. Sending out mobile units to administer lethal injections, to “put people down”, will strike fear into the hearts of the vulnerable. It diminishes the dignity and humanity of the sick and elderly and diminishes those of us who condone it.
Imagine what will happen in Britain if the Falconer Commission gets its way. You have a terminal incurable disease. You have the option of palliative care at £1,000 a week or a glass of barbiturates at £5. Would we honestly see relatives seeing granny living on and exhausting the inheritance? One in eight current cases of elder abuse currently involves financial abuse by relatives and it would inevitably increase if we change the law. Won’t health ministers, counting their pennies in a recession, be tempted to go for the cheaper option? A Bill allowing assisted suicide will carry the seeds of its own extension. If we allow it for some why deny it to others? So how long before the Dutch mobile killing units arrive in a street near you?
A change in the law is unnecessary, dangerous and unethical. As the distinguished lawyer, Lord Carlile QC, puts it we have “a hard law, with a kind face.” We should keep it that way.

When the physical, psychosocial and spiritual needs of the patient are met, requests for euthanasia are actually extremely rare. Less than 1,000 people persistently ask for it. 95% of Palliative Medicine Specialists are opposed to a change in the law.
Rather than imitating the Dutch, in 2012 we need to make a New Year’s Resolution to get behind groups like the admirable Care Not Killing Alliance, to defend and care for the sick and elderly and to put our energy into extending compassionate palliative care and hospice provision, and practical loving support – let’s demand “dignity in living” with the same fervour as those who want to license the routine killing of the most vulnerable in society. Let’s welcome the new but not see off the old.

http:www.carenotkilling.org.uk         http://www.livinganddyingwell.org.uk/




Press Release from Right to Life

Embargoed for release until 00.01 Thursday 5th January 2012
Falconer Report Must Be Rejected
Right to Life, the pro-life pressure group, has rejected the conclusions of the inquiry by the discredited Commission on Assisted Dying. It is confident that Parliament will also reject the report, which calls for the legalisation of assisted suicide for terminally-ill patients, in view of the continuous and unanswerable criticism surrounding the blatant and outrageous bias in favour of a change in the law among the membership of the commission and that it was funded by individuals and groups campaigning for such a change in the law.
Right to Life is warning the public, however, that widespread opposition to the changes demanded by the Report may lull people into a false sense of security that might give an advantage to those demanding assisted suicide.
In a statement, Phyllis Bowman, the chief executive of Right to Life, said: The fact that the present Parliament will most probably reject the Falconer Commission Report and any possible suggestion of legalising assisted dying brings real dangers of lulling British society into a sense of complacency.  
“The report of the discredited commission is far too glib in its acceptance of many claims made by the providers of euthanasia in overseas states and areas.   
“For example it repeatedly quotes doctors overseas providing euthanasia who claim that they have no evidence or scant evidence of patients being pressured or unduly influenced into opting for death. Yet, in this country every disability rights group opposes assisted dying because of the very real pressure or manipulations actually experienced by some of their members.  It mostly occurs in a minority of cases – very much a minority.   But, the fact is that it does occur and it is the duty of a compassionate society to do everything possible to ensure that the vulnerable are fully protected. 
”We also have to be aware that neither Lord Falconer nor the members of his discredited Commission will go quietly away. They will carry on their campaign as relentlessly as hitherto and are very much a danger to the sick, the disabled and to the aged.
“Their gravest error has been ignoring the effects of the euthanasia programme in countries such as Holland.  
“Throughout the report they have sought to give the impression that in Holland and elsewhere strict controls are kept on the practice of voluntary assisted dying. Yet, the latest announcement from Holland on the fact that the government is considering the introduction of mobile euthanasia units gives a clear indication of the dominant mentality in the Netherlands. 
“The reason offered for this is that 80 per cent of people with dementia or mental illness are being ‘missed’ by the euthanasia laws and the mobile units would allow patients to be ‘treated’ in their own homes.   
“Although there is no suggestion of patients suffering from dementia being provided with euthanasia in the present report the fact is that Alzheimer’s disease and similar illnesses have been used to justify their whole campaign. 
“We can also be sure that the BBC personnel – so many of whom are as committed to the euthanasia ideology as they are in Dignity In Dying and in the Falconer Commission – will not give up and society must remain constantly vigilant.”
For further information:
Please contact Phyllis Bowman of Right to Life on either 020 8992 7657 or at Phyllis@righttolife.org.uk
Website: www.righttolife.org.uk
Press release from CARE
Embargoed until 00:01 Thursday 5th January 2012
Falconer Off Target – Poll Reveals Serious Public Disquiet About Assisted Suicide
On the day that Lord Falconer recommends legalising assisted suicide a new poll highlights that nearly half of the population believe legalising assisted suicide would pressure the vulnerable into ending their lives.
A ComRes poll published today by social policy charity CARE demonstrates that nearly half the population is concerned that if the option of ending one’s life was made legal, some people would feel pressured into killing themselves. 45% of people expressed this concern, a figure that rose to 50% in the South East, Midlands and Scotland.
Tellingly, the poll also reveals that 47% of people believe that making provision for assisted suicide in the UK would not help our society value disabled people more. Indeed for 18 – 24 year olds, and those in managerial and professional jobs, the figure rises to 57% and 55% respectively.

1 Commenting on both the poll and the Falconer Report, CARE’s CEO, Nola Leach, said, ‘At the beginning of this New Year we should be thinking about the steps we can take that will challenge our society to value the vulnerable and people with disabilities more. The last thing we should be contemplating – especially at a time of economic hardship – is changing our laws so that those with a terminal illness, who believe they are a burden, are more likely to feel pressured into ending their lives. This, however, despite all the talk about safeguards, is the real danger presented by the Falconer Report also published today.’
‘When one allows for the unintended consequences – which international experience makes plain cannot be satisfactorily addressed through safeguards – the truth is that whilst the current law may not be perfect, it is the best show in town.
As the eminent lawyer, Lord Carlile QC, puts it we have “a hard law, with a kind face.”
On the one hand, as a “hard law” the current legislation makes it plain that helping someone to commit suicide is not acceptable and it thereby crucially protects vulnerable people, who believe they are a burden, from feeling they must avail themselves of a state-sanctioned means of hastening their demise.
On the other hand, its “kind face” means prosecutors have flexibility about whether or not to bring charges.
Some might argue that the failure of the Director of Public Prosecutions to bring charges in the 31 assisted suicides cases brought before him since his guidance on the subject was published demonstrates that our current arrangements are not working. However, when one appreciates that a change in the law along the lines suggested by Falconer is likely to result in approximately 885 assisted suicides of vulnerable people in the UK (the figure would rise to some 13,000 if we allowed for assisted suicide and euthanasia as in Holland), the merits of our current arrangements become abundantly clear.’
2 ‘These points should have come through clearly but sadly the whole Falconer ‘Commission’ process has been flawed from the start.’
‘First, the findings are the result of a so-called Commission that is completely unbalanced.’
‘Membership: It includes 9 commissioners who are known to be in favour of legalising assisted suicide and 2 who are not against legalising assisted suicide!
Chairmanship: Far from being objective, Lord Falconer was the last person in the UK to try to liberalise the law on assisted suicide through his amendment to the Coroners and Justice Bill. Asking Charles Falconer to chair a review of assisted suicide is a bit like asking Tony Benn to chair a review on the future of the monarchy!
3 Conception: It was suggested by the single issue campaign group Dignity in Dying, formerly the Voluntary Euthanasia Society, which exists for the purpose of legalising assisted suicide.
Funding: Its funding has come from two wealthy advocates for changing the law to allow assisted suicide.
In light of the above concerns, the credibility of the Falconer ‘Commission’ process has been widely called into question, including through a very critical 5 point British Medical Association resolution.
4 Many bodies, including CARE, refused to give evidence to the ‘Commission’ because of its flawed composition.’
‘Second, the formation of the ‘Commission’ somewhat smacks of desperation. The only reason for establishing it is that the two genuinely independent parliamentary Committees that have exhaustively considered the evidence both recommended no change in the law. For instance, the Assisted Dying for the Terminally Ill Committee covered some 246 Hansard columns and two volumes of 744 pages and 116 pages respectively. 5 Moreover, all parliamentary attempts to change the law in the way that Falconer desires have failed (by 148-100, May 2006, and 194-141, July 2009). The last attempt at legalisation in Scotland also resulted in a heavy defeat (85-16) for Margo Macdonald MSP’s Bill in November 2010.’
‘Quite apart from anything else, the very public and very blatant flaws in the Falconer ‘Commission’ process should make parliament extremely cautious about embracing any aspects of its findings. When one looks at the specifics of the proposals in light of the inevitable unintended consequences for the vulnerable, though, it is clear that this is a report that should never be acted on. Let us start 2012 by considering what legislative changes can be made that challenge our society to value the vulnerable and disabled more not less, that make our society more humane not more dangerous for those on the margins.’
Notes to Editors:
Contact Dan Boucher (07768 165443) or Chris Buttenshaw (07921 837499).

1. The poll was conducted by ComRes which interviewed 1004 GB adults by telephone between 16th and 18th December 2011. Data were weighted to be demographically representative of all GB adults. ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. Other findings show that as many as nearly 1 in 4 people were prepared to state that legalising assisted suicide would actually be ‘foolish’ in light of the Harold Shipman case, a figure that rose to nearly 1 in 5 for those over 65.

2. These figures are based on projecting up Oregon and Netherlands figures to the UK. Oregon has a small population of just under 4 million compared to over 60 million in the UK; but its land area is slightly bigger than the of the UK. Approximately 30,000 individuals die in Oregon every year compared to half a million in the UK. In 2009, 53 Oregonians died using PAS (Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act Report, 2009). It is estimated that around 88 terminally ill people committed suicide in England in 2009 (Demos, The Truth About Suicide, 2011, estimates approximately 2% of suicides were due to terminal illnesses). If the same rate of PAS deaths occurred in England as in Oregon, around 885 people would have died by physician assisted suicide (there were 491,348 deaths registered in England and Wales in 2009 (Births and Deaths in England and Wales, 2009, page 3 – 459,241 took place in England, Table 3). At a death rate of 0.19% for PAS deaths, 886 would have died.
Of crucial importance, however, the Falconer Report proposes giving greater flexibility to end one’s life. In Oregon this can only take place if a patient is projected to have just 6 months or less to live. The Falconer proposal is that people who are projected to have 12 months or less to live can access assisted suicide.

3. Lord Falconer was the last person to seek to liberalise the law on assisted suicide on July 7th 2009. The text of his amendment and the debate can be found at: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld200809/ldhansrd/text/90707-0006.htm#09070764000145

Lord Falconer pressed his amendment to a vote and lost by 53 votes, 194-141.

4. Motion 305, Medical Ethics session, British Medical Association Annual General Meeting Agenda, p.45, June 2011 (http://www.bma.org.uk/images/arm2011agenda_tcm41-206954.pdf)
305 Motion by THE AGENDA COMMITTEE (Motion to be proposed by the YORKSHIRE REGIONAL
COUNCIL): That this Meeting:-
i) notes that the significant majority of members of Lord Falconer’s Commission on Assisted Dying
are publically in favour of assisted suicide and euthanasia;
ii) supports the BMA’s stance in not giving evidence to the DEMOS Commission on Assisted Dying;
iii) questions the stated impartiality and independence of the Commission on Assisted Dying;
iv) requests the BMA Ethics Committee to make the Association’s opposition to assisted suicide and
euthanasia clear to the Commission on Assisted Dying;
v) requests the BMJ editorial team to present a balanced and unbiased coverage of the Commission
on Assisted Dying.

5. The Assisted Dying for the Terminally Ill Committee Reports can be accessed here: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld/ldasdy.htm”>http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld/ldasdy.htm

Lord David Alton

For 18 years David Alton was a Member of the House of Commons and today he is an Independent Crossbench Life Peer in the UK House of Lords.

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