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JULY 2014

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Second Reading of the Assisted Dying Bill

Lord Falconer’s Assisted Dying Bill is due to receive its second reading in the House of Lords on 18th  July.  

Writing in the Spectator (5th July), Jenny Mcartney comments , “It is human nature to crave control where none seems available. That is why numerous people will back Lord Falconer’s Assisted Dying Bill.  It proposes that terminally ill adults with less than six months to live could be legally helped to end their lives by means of prescribed medication. To that end, it is publishing advertisements featuring the gruelling ‘obituaries’ of individuals whose suffering was prolonged, the campaign argues, by the absence of ‘assisted dying’. 1

“The stories within are undoubtedly powerful and moving. But they do not give the full picture of the Assisted Dying Bill, and why so many others are alarmed by it.

“While the Bill speaks reassuringly of its checklist — the terminally ill patient would need to be mentally competent and receive the sanction of two doctors — the longer one looks, the less reassuring it grows. What is this clause of ‘six months or less’ to live? As most doctors know, such diagnoses can be deeply unreliable. And by what logic do we attach an ‘assisted death’ to a six-month prognosis but not, say, that of a year? As Lady Butler-Sloss sharply observed, the Bill exchanges ‘a natural frontier’ for ‘arbitrary criteria’.

“The limitations outlined in Lord Falconer’s Bill are far from absolute: they are there because they are thought to be the maximum that the public would presently accept.

“Such a rolling process was suggested in the 2012 report from Lord Falconer’s Commission on Assisted Dying, which chilled a number of prominent disabled commentators. It observed that the commission could not agree on whether to extend the ‘assisted dying’ option to those with disabilities, concluding that ‘we do not consider that it would be acceptable to society at this point in time to recommend that a non-terminally ill person with significant physical impairment should be made eligible.’

“The clear implication was that at another point in time it might indeed become acceptable. Tanni Grey-Thompson, the disabled peer, wrote eloquently of her deep unease that: ‘while I am not seen as a potential candidate for assisted suicide right now, I am in the waiting room’.”

It is difficult to give credence to “reassurances” when one considers the reassurances that the Abortion Act would only make abortion available to a few women in exceptional circumstances. We now see the proclamation that, “One in three women will have an abortion” and we are urged to, “accept that it is a standard part of women’s healthcare.” 2

Disability groups, doctors, faith groups, and many who are not religious, are united in opposing this Bill.  CARE (Christian Action Research and Education) has launched a campaign Live and Let Live which includes the publication of a booklet by Dr Peter Saunders, of the Christian Medical Fellowship, explaining what the Bible has to say about the issue. 3

1 http://www.spectator.co.uk/features/9252841/the-terminal-confusion-of-dignity-in-dying/

2 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/10895765/Lifestyle-abortions-warning-as-serial-termination-numbers-surge.html

3 http://www.care.org.uk/advocacy/end-of-life/live-and-let-live