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SEPTEMBER 2015

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1509 image news

Assisted Dying - Is that really the kind of society we want?

As reported in the July edition of imagenews MPs will vote on 11th September on the second reading of Rob Marris’ Assisted Dying Bill.  Writing in the Economist, Baroness  Ilora Finley, president of the BMA, has argued why the Bill should be opposed.  Ilora Finlay has specialised in the care of the dying for more than 27 years.

She writes, “Laws on ‘assisted dying’, like the one tabled by Lord Falconer and debated last year in Britain’s House of Lords, are written as if everyone is a strong-minded, no-nonsense individual and never susceptible to depression or influence or doubt. But I must tell you, most patients facing an approaching death just aren’t like that. They are struggling to come to terms with their mortality, veering between hope and despair and back again, worried about the impact of their illness on those around them and trying to make sense of what is happening to them. In a word, they become vulnerable.

“Yet many who want to legalise what they call ‘assisted dying’, and are passionate about concepts such as autonomy and control, seem unable to grasp real-world vulnerabilities. There is a problem of self-projection. Thoroughly decent people who wouldn’t dream of coercing others and couldn’t be coerced themselves sometimes find it hard to imagine that others are not so scrupulous. When we are fit and well, it’s all too easy to look at someone who is seriously ill or disabled and tell ourselves that we ‘wouldn't want to live like that’ and we would want to make our exit.

“Real compassion means recognising and relieving suffering; you have to be alongside it. That is what doctors who specialise in caring for the dying do day after day. End-of-life care has made huge advances in recent years; yet it’s about far more than good medicine. It’s about recognising vulnerabilities, which patients, like everyone, often try to hide, and then working to support them to live well in whatever time they have left. It’s about accompanying people along what may well be the most difficult journey they have ever made and assuring them, not just with words but with actions, that, as Cicely Saunders (the founder of the hospice movement) put it, ‘You matter because you are you.’”

She warns against relying on safeguards, “Oh, don’t worry, we are told, all this will be dealt with through safeguards. No, it won’t. These ‘tick-boxes’ may sound plausible in theory, but they fall to pieces under the stresses of real-life terminal illness.”

Baroness Finlay concludes, “Laws are more than just regulatory instruments.  They send social messages.  As a society we are clear that suicide is not something to be encouraged or assisted. Legalising assisted suicide flies in the face of that.  It sends the message that, if you are terminally ill, ending your life is something that society endorses and that you might want to consider.  Is that really the kind of society we want?” @


Many clearly reasoned arguments opposing the Marris Bill have appeared in the last two months. References to some of these are given below.


Dr Peter Saunders, CEO of Christian Medical Fellowship, “Over the next month hundreds of thousands of pounds will be spent by the campaign group Dignity in Dying (the former Voluntary Euthanasia Society), who drafted the bill, aided and abetted by its principle cheerleader, the BBC, who can be guaranteed to give it the full oxygen of publicity and to grant an international platform to anyone who supports it.” @


“The reality is that Britain’s law on assisted suicide is clear and right and is working well. It is also being exercised compassionately as the discretion it gives to judges and prosecutors means that only two people have so far been convicted and sentenced under in the last five years.” @


Church of England, “We believe that the Assisted Dying Bill has the potential to damage both the wellbeing of individuals and the nature and shape of our society. If enacted, the Assisted Dying Bill would put at risk many more vulnerable people than it seeks to help.”   

@ and @ and @


Lord David Alton, “We are rightly compassionate and understanding about suicide. But as a society we are clear that suicide itself is not something to be encouraged, much less assisted. We have suicide prevention strategies and suicide watches. When we come across people who are suicidal, we try to help them to live rather than to kill themselves. We don’t give them the proverbial push from the bridge. @


John Harris, “Underneath a lot of this noise is the narcissistic atheism that bien-pensant types now consider the basis of all correct thought.” @


Luke O’Sullivan, “Unless Christianity starts to make a come-back as a civilizing force in British society I have little doubt that more subtle arguments will emerge to absolve society of its duty of care to the vulnerable and the unproductive, the weak and the ‘abnormal’.” @


Tom Chacko, “Supporting someone’s decision to commit suicide encourages them to do so. If someone tells you that they have come to the view that their life has no value, saying that you respect their decision amounts to validating that view, indicating that you agree—that their life really is that bad. People were horrified when they heard of the incident in Telford this March, when a crowd gathered beneath a building where police were trying to talk a man down from the roof, and shouted at him to ‘Get on with it and jump.’ (He did.) However, if someone is in despair as to their future, the reinforcement of that view by those close to them is much more likely to drive them to suicide than the taunts of strangers.” @


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