A short blog in response to the parliamentary question of Baroness Meacher, an assisted suicide advocate, who wishes the government to legalise the practice.
Baroness Meacher is on the move again.
The peer, who is also Chair of the organisation ‘Dignity in Dying’, recently put forward the parliamentary question: “To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they have any plans to legalise assisted dying for terminally ill capacitous adults, with appropriate safeguards.”
The succinct reply included the words “the short Answer to the Question is no”.
Baroness Meacher was also reminded that the House of Commons voted against the last Assisted Suicide Bill by 330 to 118. But something which could have also been pointed out is that there is no such thing as ‘appropriate safeguards’.
Clear evidence of this came to light just last week. It was found that a British psychiatrist was instrumental in sending 6 dementia patients, who could not be deemed to be ‘mentally capacitous’ to their deaths at assisted suicide clinics in Switzerland. Here was a serious abuse of the law… in a country where assisted suicide is still illegal!
Before starting at Life I worked in a solicitor’s office for a while. I remember being asked to help out with the administration in a case involving two dementia patients who changed their will in their last years and signed away a large part of their estate while they were, according to medical notes and according to the firm I worked for, not in the right frame of mind to do so. The result was that the family split apart. One half of the family felt severely aggrieved as they felt that the house of their elderly parents had been unfairly taken away from them, while the other half argued that their parents were of sound mind when they changed their will.
This is an example of the heartache which can be involved when the estate of vulnerable people is at stake… but multiply that heartache by a thousand in order to imagine what would happen if assisted suicide were to be made legal. An estate being taken away from someone is one thing, but the very life of a loved one is an entirely different matter.
Baroness Meacher would undoubtedly argue that abuses, of the kind carried out by the psychiatrist, would only happen rarely.
The first thing is that even one vulnerable patient’s life is a good enough reason not to introduce an Assisted Suicide law. To give a similar example, I was at one stage Scotland’s (self-proclaimed) greatest advocate of introducing wolves back into the Scottish wild. I was eventually persuaded against the idea, however, by the notion that if even one innocent human being was mauled to death by a hungry pack of wolves unnecessarily, it would make the re-introduction of wolves the wrong decision.
With an assisted suicide law though, the dangers would be far greater than if many thousands of wolves were to be let loose across the moors and valleys of Scotland! Only a small percentage of people go camping in the wild. But practically every person goes through the healthcare system in the UK and even if they are fortunate enough not to find themselves at the mercy of others, it is very likely that their loved ones will.
Indeed, in this vein, one of the slides of the Euthanasia presentation which we deliver in schools reads “What is worse: Not to kill those who want to die? Or to kill those who do not want to die?”. Undoubtedly it is worse to kill those who do not want to die. And undoubtedly the introduction of an Assisted Suicide law would lead to many being killed who do not want to die.
The experience of other countries and states where Assisted Suicide has been legalised abundantly confirms this. Moreover, the experience of other countries is that when Assisted Suicide laws are introduced, the quality and quantity of palliative care decreases. In fact, there have been cases where patients have been offered suicide as a ‘treatment’ option when they haven’t asked for it instead of viable medical treatment which would save their lives.
Much more could be said about the dangers of legalising assisted suicide, but I will end with this question: To ask euthanasia advocates when they will take into account the great body of evidence which shows that assisted suicide leads only to grave abuses and the devaluing of human life?