NRL News

Assisted suicide: This is a road down which we should not go

by | Jul 29, 2015

By Alex Schadenberg
International Chair, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Glyn Davies, the  MP [Member of Parliament] from Montgomeryshire  UK, responded to  Rob Marris’s Assisted Dying Bill  in an article that was  published today by Politics Home  in the UK.

Davies, focuses on the effect of legalising assisted suicide in the UK. For instance, Davies responds to Marris’s assertion that assisted suicide is happening already.  From the article :
Mr..  Marris will be aware that breaches of the existing law in this area are rare. Less than 20 cases a year cross the desk of the DPP [ Director of Public Prosecutions ] throughout the whole of England and Wales. However, he tells us that “terminally ill people are ending their own lives” and that “some doctors are complicit in hastening patients’ deaths”. 
The claim about terminally ill patients ending their own lives rests on an extrapolation of data from just seven out of 139 health authorities. Even so, the number is dwarfed by the death rate from legalised assisted suicide in Oregon. Oregon’s death rate from this source last year is the equivalent to over 1,500 assisted suicide deaths in England and Wales if we had a similar law here. And it is Oregon’s law that is the model for Mr.Marris’ bill. 
As for the claim that doctors are already engaging in hastening patients’ deaths, I can do no better than quote the words of Sir Graeme Catto, Chair of the campaigning group Dignity in Dying (formerly the Voluntary Euthanasia Society). He told Mr. Marris’ meeting last week that “that is highly unlikely” because “doctors now work in teams and it is very hard to get one-to-one contact”. In fact, Sir Graeme was only confirming independent research, which has concluded that covert hastening of deaths of patients by doctors in the UK is “rare or non-existent”
Davies then points out that Marris’s assisted suicide bill is based on arbitrary criteria.  From the article :
… The essential question before Parliament is this: do you want to license doctors to involve themselves in deliberately bringing about the deaths of some of their patients? Most doctors don’t want that. 
All these ‘assisted dying’ bills rest on purely arbitrary criteria – like terminal illness (but not chronic illness or disability) and assisted suicide (but not administered euthanasia). Their boundaries are irrational and therefore permeable. That is why so many people are worried about the thin end of the wedge. This is a road down which we should not go.
Liz Carr, who is an actress and disability rights leader, stated at the  Not Dead Yet UK rally two weeks ago :
I am terrified by this bill. I am terrified because as a disabled person I have experienced first-hand how poorly our society values disabled people. It’s the same with elderly people.
I’m always been told, ‘If I was like you I’d kill myself’. ‘If I was like you I’d want to die.’ There are people who sincerely believe that people like me are better off dead. 
This is really serious. It’s about life and death. If this bill becomes law some disabled and vulnerable people will be subjected to exploitation and abuse and will die as a result. 
This bill if passed will also mean that innocent people get killed. The current law protects people against this kind of abuse. It does not need changing.
This is a road down which we should not go.
Editor’s note. This appeared at and is reprinted with permission.
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