Text of the letters
Please do not allow assisted suicide to become law in this country. Too many of our loved ones would then feel under dreadful pressure to end their own lives, because assisted suicide would seem to be the only way out of a difficult and draining medical situation. I know this from my own experience with my grandmother.
My beloved granny was loved and admired to the very end by all her family and a wide circle of friends and acquaintances, and full of whimsical, gentle, creative character even when her physical health failed.
Yet as her previously boundless energy began to diminish slightly, I was horrified to hear her say, in distressed tones, that if assisted suicide had been legal, she would have felt ‘obliged’ to commit suicide so as to spare others the burden of caring for her.
She was so loved by so many, it was a privilege to be there for her when she needed us, as she had cared for many people in many different ways during her life. Even in her last illness, the family were glad just to be near her.
But she would have taken that from us, and gone, frightened and sad, to a premature and forced end, if assisted suicide had been legal. She would have left us devastated, rather than passing away peacefully and trustingly in the bosom of her family.
Making assisted suicide legal suggests to many – perhaps particularly those who are generous and selfless – that it is the right thing to do to get rid of oneself when the alternative might mean dependence on others. People like my grandmother do not wish to leave those they love, but regret that others might find it hard to care for them, and, were it an option, would wonder secretly about whether their loved ones really would prefer them gone sooner, filling them with sadness, doubt, confusion, lack of self-esteem, rather than the trust and love which used to be there.
Please do not add this psychological burden to the elderly or sick, who should feel loved and cherished for who they are, regardless of their physical condition! Do not add a burden of undeserved guilt to families who might find their loved ones gone forever from this life unnecessarily soon because of understandable but unreasonable concerns about being a burden to those who love and care for them.
Letter from a GP
I write to strongly urge you to speak against and vote against the upcoming assisted suicide bill.
As a GP, I see many people who are entering the final part of their lives.
We can become blasé about this, and expect them to follow a clear pattern of decline and to then die in an expected fashion. But we need to be humble and human about it – several times I have cautiously predicted someone’s demise to their sobbing relatives, only to have them make an amazing recovery, and live for many days, weeks, months, and, on one occasion, more than a year of life after they were otherwise written off! These things can only ever be an educated guess – they must not be the death blow.
Only recently, I was giving my condolences to a grieving woman who had lost her husband in the early hours. He had been given a few small doses of pain relief and mild sedatives over the last few nights for symptom control and had passed away peacefully at her side. She asked me in all seriousness, “Doctor, did the nurses give him something to make him die quicker last night?” This was an awful lingering doubt that she had. I was able to firmly reassure her that, no, the medication would not have sped up his passing.
For her, and the vast majority of other patients, doctors are there to prolong life and palliate symptoms. Were this to change, then we would not be doctors in the eyes of many, but bringers of death, agents of a state which counts its weakest members as expendable and worthy of nothing but an early grave.
I do not want to be a member of a profession which has that reputation or role, and I completely agree with the views expressed by Baroness Finlay in this PoliticsHome article: https://www.politicshome.com/thehouse/article/suicide-is-not-something-to-be-encouraged-or-assisted.
Please vigorously oppose any attempt to embed assisted suicide in our healthcare system – it has no place there