NRL News

“Care Not Killing”–Update on end of life issues

by | Nov 22, 2011

By Dr. Peter Saunders

Editor’s note.  Dr. Saunders is a former general surgeon and CEO of Christian Medical Fellowship, a UK-based organization with 4,500 UK doctors and 1,000 medical students as members. This appeared on his blog at

The Care Not Killing Alliance (CNK), representing over 40 organisations which promote palliative care and oppose euthanasia, has just published its November 2011 update on end of life issues.

I have reproduced the highlights below.

* Falconer Commission

The Falconer Commission on ‘Assisted Dying’ is due to report in late November. The Commission has been suggested by Dignity in Dying (Formerly the Voluntary Euthanasia Society), paid for by one of its patrons and stacked full of euthanasia sympathisers by Lord Falconer’s own admission. It is expected to recommend the legalisation of assisted suicide within ‘strict safeguards’ for those who are terminally ill.

CNK has written why the law should not be changed on either physician-assisted suicide (PAS) or voluntary euthanasia and about the background and bias of the Falconer Commission. At the commission’s launch on 30 November 2010 it was revealed that nine of the twelve commissioners were well-known names in the pro-legalisation lobby. The BMA has passed a five part motion undermining the commission’s credibility.

* Philip Nitschke’s visit to Britain

CNK wrote to the Home Secretary, Theresa May, asking her to exercise her powers to prevent Philip Nitschke entering the UK. Nitschke is running a series of seminars instructing people how to commit suicide. He is on public record as supporting suicide for depressed people and teenagers.

*Addressing suicide contagion

CNK recently responded to the Department of Health suicide consultation. Our submission argued that the new suicide prevention strategy for England should further consider the phenomenon of media-induced suicide contagion.

*Royal College of Nursing guidance on assisted suicide requests from patients

The RCN guidance gave practical advice about how to address the topic sensitively, within the law and supporting the patient. The guidance addresses the different legal issues and was surprisingly good.

*Students change minds in debate about ‘right to die’

CNK debated at University College London against the vice chair of Dignity in Dying. CNK Campaign Director Dr Peter Saunders explained that a change in the law was unnecessary and dangerous and that the present law works well in deterring exploitation whilst giving discretion to prosecutors in hard cases. By the end of the debate, initial strong support for the ‘right to die’ was heavily reduced to less than half of those present.

*Times launches ‘Silver manifesto’ for elderly people

The Times (£) has launched a fifty point plan (£) to improve the lives of elderly people. Some of the suggestions were to run care homes like homes not hospitals, give older people a role in schools and make text on menus bigger.

*Doctors provide analysis of Palliative care article

Dr John Wiles, CNK Chair and retired NHS Consultant in Palliative Medicine, challenged an article in the BMJ by Clare Dyer that asserted that the legalisation of assisted dying does not harm palliative care. Dr Wiles argued that the recent article from the European Association for Palliative Care did not reach that conclusion.

* New evidence that Patients in ‘Permanent Vegetative State’ may be consciously aware

The Lancet has reported that a method of communicating with brain damaged patients in a permanent vegetative state has been discovered by scientists in the UK and Belgium. Out of sixteen patients diagnosed in the vegetative state, three could repeatedly and reliably respond to two distinct commands. …

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