Assisted Suicide: Hugely experienced Medical Professor explains why well meaning supporters of euthanasia will open the door to terrifying consequences
Sir: Dr Meirion Thomas (Letters, 29 July) rehearses the usual arguments in favour of assisted dying ‘for patients with terminal diseases’.
First, ‘good legislation’ can prevent any ‘slippery slope’. It would be difficult to name a single state where this has proved possible; hence the spread of ‘assisted’ dying to the depressed, and to infants and children in Canada, the Netherlands and Belgium.
The fact is that a slippery slope is not accidental but inevitable. Once a law has been introduced establishing a ‘right’ to assisted suicide for certain individuals, it becomes impossible to deny that ‘right’ to other groups.
Second, ‘palliative/terminal care is not as widely available as would be ideal’. In other words, the NHS is failing, so let’s reduce its workload. No one has ever established whether Jacques Attali, French economist and ex-president of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, was being ironic when he said the over-65s ‘cost society a lot of money… euthanasia will be one of the essential instruments of our future societies’. But an unarguable economic case is not the same as justification.
And third, it is wrong to deny competent patients this ‘choice’ when they suffer from ‘intractable pain… or the indignities of [some] neurodegenerative diseases’. But it is right to deny competent individuals some ‘choices’ – ranging from seatbelts to crack cocaine. We do so when there are serious adverse consequences for society.
To legalise assisted dying is to normalise it, creating no small pressure – real or perceived – on the frail and the sick to take this ‘choice’. It is no coincidence that support for assisted dying is consistently lowest among the elderly and the disabled.
Emeritus Professor Neil Scolding, FRCP