Monday, August 24, 2015

Assisted Suicide - putting less value on life of the vulnerable

In general, I take but little notice of letters to newspapers. But I was pleased to read a good letter signed by 89 doctors is today's Telegraph warning about the dangers involved in legalising assisted suicide. It goes some way to balance the determined campaign by a lobbying group known as Dignity in Dying, which has been running a massive campaign for many years to change the law to make helping someone kill themselves legal. I fiercely disagree with this campaign.
On September 11th, there will be a debate in the House of Commons on a Private Member's Bill introduced by Labour MP, Rob Marris. MPs will be deciding whether to approve it at Second Reading, allowing it to go into Committee. I hope to speak in this debate and try to persuade my colleagues to throw this dangerous, misguided bill out.
The Marris Bill, like other attempts to change the law to make assisted suicide legal promoted by Lord Falconer and others puts a lesser value on the lives of the most vulnerable - the seriously disabled, the frail elderly, the severely mentally ill and the terminally ill. Society rightly disapproves of suicide, but according to the Bill's promoters it should disapprove less in respect of these vulnerable groups. Inevitably, legalisation will lead to  the normalisation of suicide, and self-imposed pressure to end life. Over the last few weeks we have seen much publicised reports of individuals ending their lives simply because they do not want to be old.
It is true that as a society, we have not given enough attention to managing death - not remotely enough attention to palliative care. We invest too much in prolonging life, and not enough in making the passage from life to death more comfortable. The most vulnerable do not have a loud voice.
Legalising assisted suicide would change the relationship between doctor and patient. It would conflict with the doctor's 'duty of care' and responsibility to discourage suicide. It's no surprise to me that most doctors oppose this Bill.
 I have always opposed proposals to help people kill themselves being made legal. It can be dressed up in emotive language about an individual's 'right to die', focussing on tragic 'hard cases'. Individuals already have the 'right to die'. What they don't have is the right to involve someone else in helping them.
I really do hope that MPs will kick the Marris Bill into touch on Sept 11th. I believe they will. It will be one of the most important debates of this Parliament.


67yr olds view said...

I agree and hope the bill is kicked out.

Barry said...

A great blog post. I agree with it, more importantly so does my MP and he will vote against.