Yet another attempt is beinmg made to manipulate public and parliamentary opinion in favour of assisted killing.
The well publicised, highly orchestrated and well funded campaign to introduce assisted killing into the UK has been at it again today.
The British Medical Association, the Royal Colleges that represent medics, the disability rights movement and the hospices, along with both Houses of Parliament, have all said no to changing a law that protects the most vulnerable and doesn’t force doctors to kill their patients.
They all agree that the key issue is public protection and in jurisdictions where the law has been changed the so-called “right to die” rapidly becomes a duty to die and public protection is eclipsed as thousands of depressed or disabled people are callously disposed of.
When you ask the question “should people have dignity when they are dying?” of course people say yes – so do I – but giving patitents lethal injections is neither ethical or dignified. You don’t need a doctor to kill you to die with dignity.
Instead of listening to media cheer leaders for euthanasia we should ask why half a million deaths in the UK each year are unremarked and unreported. Hard cases always make bad laws.
The campaigners who are trying to subvert the medical organisations, and the will of Parliament, should put their considerable resources into supporting palliative care and hospices who do such wonderful work in caring for the hundreds of thousands that die annually, without recourse to euthanasia or the courts, and who need love and care asthey enter the final days of their lives, not a lethal injection.
Assisted Living: Times editorial May 27th. The Times newspaper previously argued for assisted suicide but because of the threat to public safety has come out against new legislation:
The Times says : “The death in Switzerland of Jeffrey Spector does not strengthen the case for legalised assisted suicide in Britain. It strengthens the case for the status quo.”
Last updated at 12:01AM, May 27 2015
From all the available evidence, Jeffrey Spector was a proud and successful man with a beautiful and loving family. He had everything, in other words, to live for. Instead he chose to die, haunted by the prospect of becoming paralysed because of an inoperable tumour. It was, he insisted beforehand, “a settled decision by a sound mind”.
After years of careful thought, Mr Spector, a 54- year-old advertising executive from Blackpool, took a fatal dose of sodium pentobarbital last week in an apartment rented by the Swiss charity Dignitas. He demanded the right to end his life on his own terms. On balance it is a good thing that he was able to, albeit in Zurich rather than at home. His decision will undoubtedly reopen the debate on whether he should have been able to resort legally to assisted suicide in Britain. It would be wrong, however, if this case led to a change in British law.
Mr Spector was still in command of his faculties. He could talk and drive. Paralysis was a threat because of the tumour growing on his neck, but it was not yet a reality. The risk of legalising assisted suicide is that it plants suicide as an option in the minds of more vulnerable people where it might not otherwise have existed. Still more troubling is the possibility that such an option might come to be seen by some as a duty. Mr Spector was decisive, determined and courageous. Many gravely and terminally ill people find extraordinary courage, but few choose to express it by hastening death. Most, in the end, would prefer to be cared for. No change in the law that carried even a slight risk of increasing their distress or confusion could be considered welcome.
Under current law anyone convicted of encouraging or assisting suicide faces up to 14 years in jail. Prosecutions are in practice unlikely, but the threat has tormented some determined to end their own lives. Heartrending cases such as that of Tony Nicklinson, a sufferer of “locked-in syndrome” who starved himself to death rather than expose his family to the risk of prosecution, led to the drafting of Lord Falconer of Thoroton’s bill on assisted dying in the last parliament. The bill would have legalised assisted suicide for terminally ill patients able to make a “voluntary, clear, settled and informed” decision. It passed a reading in the House of Lords and won widespread public support but was never debated in the House of Commons.
If there were a guarantee that the Falconer bill could not be misapplied, even inadvertently, it might deserve to be revived. But there is no such guarantee. There is sometimes a fine line between physical suffering and the mental anguish of feeling oneself to be a burden on others. The line between feeling oneself to be a burden and being made to feel one can be even finer. For the severely disabled, a law that made it easier to end a difficult life could compound unimaginable distress even if that were no part of its intention. And for Alzheimer’s sufferers the impact of such a law is almost impossible to gauge. In the early stages of the disease a patient might express a voluntary and rational preference for assisted death, but who is to know if that remains the patient’s preference in the confusion of full-blown dementia?
“I am jumping the gun,” Mr Spector admitted in a final interview. His wife and three daughters had begged him not to go through with it but were with him at the end. The now familiar one-way trip to Switzerland taken by some 300 Britons is both intensely poignant and unavoidably macabre. It is part of an unsatisfactory status quo, but preferable to an alternative in which suicide becomes legally equivalent to treatment and care. The existing legal framework for assisted suicide in Britain is not perfect but it takes account of such agonies as those endured by Mr Spector’s family. It is an imperfect fudge, but a humane one, and the threshold for tampering with it should be high.