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Press release – Disabled people’s opposition to assisted suicide remains strong a year after Marris assisted suicide Bill defeat

PRESS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

DISABLED PEOPLE’S OPPOSITION TO ASSISTED SUICIDE REMAINS STRONG A YEAR AFTER MARRIS ASSISTED SUICIDE BILL DEFEAT

On Sunday 11th September 2016 Not Dead Yet UK and other disability rights activists from around the country will be remembering the first anniversary of the victory over Rob Marris MP’s Assisted Dying Bill on 11th September 2015.

Last year MPs in the House of Commons overwhelmingly voted to reject Marris’ bill, which would allow doctors to legally assist terminally ill people to prematurely end their own lives by 330 votes to 118.  This landslide victory was matched in both the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly. In Scotland, MSPs voted against MSP Patrick Harvie’s assisted suicide bill by 82 votes to 16 while in Wales a similar bill was also decisively rejected by 21 votes to 12.

The British Medical Association’s clear opposition to the legalisation of physician assisted suicide was influential in defeating Marris’ bill last September and BMA members voted again in recent months (July 2016), once again voting to reject moves to legalise assisted suicide by 195 to 115, maintaining its strong stance in opposition.

Juliet Marlow, active member of Not Dead Yet UK:

“It is befitting that on World Suicide Prevention Day (10 September, 2016) we renew our opposition to legalised Assisted Suicide by remembering last year’s defeat of Rob Marris’ misguided Private Member’s Bill. Just as we would try and do all we can to prevent the suicide of a non-disabled person we will continue to campaign for disabled people to be treated in the same way. Our suicides, assisted or otherwise, should also be accepted as a tragedy – because our lives are equally worth living.”

Liz Carr, comedian and disability activist said:

“One year ago, we sent a clear message to Parliament that we want support, not suicide. We want help to live, not to die. Parliament responded by overwhelmingly rejecting a measure which would have put the lives of elderly and vulnerable people including those those with all types of impairment at risk.

The latest statistics from Washington’s Department of Health show that in the same year assisted suicide was rejected in the UK, the number of physician assisted deaths in the state peaked at its highest recorded level, with over half of those individuals citing that they did ‘not wish to be a burden on others’ and a growing number citing financial pressure as a factor in their decision. This is not about choice in death, this is a failure to support those in need.”

Baroness Jane Campbell said:

“Parliament has looked at the evidence and voted against legalising assisted suicide consistently for decades. Their opinion is not shifting. 74% of MPs voted against this bill compared with 72% back in 1997. The overwhelming evidence suggests that to legislate may possibly alleviate the desperate fears of a small number, whilst putting thousands at risk. Our Parliamentary democracy must protect the nation as a whole. Individual cases make bad law. Our energies should go on supporting and helping the few to have as good a death as possible, which means greater support and resources given to the hospice movement in the UK, more effective social care support and a greater understanding of the needs of elderly and disabled people at end of their lives. We are convinced that if we get that right, people will not desperately ask others to kill them, which is a terrible burden for both to carry.”

ENDS

For interviews or further information please contact Not Dead Yet UK spokesperson Juliet Marlow at emailnotdeadyet@gmail.com

For more information on Not Dead Yet UK visit our website: www.notdeadyetuk.org

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Judicial Review Royal Courts of Justice 16th November

Many of you will remember that earlier in the year at a short hearing in London, Nikki and Merv Kenward were granted permission to proceed with the judicial review of the DPP’s new policy on the grounds that she had made the law more liberal and that the legality of the change should be scrutinised.  We have heard the hearing is to take place at the Royal Courts of Justice in London on the 16th of November from 9 am

Nikki and Merv are calling for people to show support by attending a rally on the day. Dignity in Dying are expected to have a presence, the Humanist Society may also turn up.

If you can help in any way or want more details please contact Nikki or Merv 07780 476 714 or email mervkenward@gmail.com

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UK MP’s throw out Assisted Suicide Bill

MPs have rejected plans for a right to die in England and Wales in their first vote on the issue in almost 20 years. In a free vote in the Commons, 118 MPs were in favour and 330 against plans to allow some terminally ill adults to end their lives with medical supervision.

After a passionate debate, MP’s overwhelmingly voted against with many saying that vulnerable people would have no protection and would be put at great risk.

Under the proposed legislation people with fewer than six months to live could have been prescribed a lethal dose of drugs, which they had to be able to take themselves. Two doctors and a High Court judge would have needed to approve each case.

Not Dead Yet UK wants to place on record its grateful thanks to all those who supported our campaign. We are a tiny organisation with very limited resources but we have determination, passion and commitment and these won the day.

We can now reflect on a job well done and think about the future in a much more positive way.

We will keep you informed of any new developments on this subject and will be discussing the future of Not Dead Yet UK. If you have any thoughts regarding our future direction please let us know.

 

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URGENT ACTION NOTICE – NOT DEAD YET UK …11th September

09:00 – 2:30pm, Friday 11th September.

Old Palace Yard (Opposite the House of Lords), Parliament, Westminster, London SW1A 0AA.

JOIN THE FIGHT TO PROTECT OUR LIVES!

Not Dead Yet UK supported by many other Disabled People’s Organisations will protest against Rob Marris’ MP Assisted Suicide Bill while it is being debated in the House of Commons. We need to stop the Bill now – it will be much more difficult at a later stage.

We need EVERYONE WHO CAN to support us in responding peacefully, in large numbers, to this campaign so that Parliament is left in no doubt that assisted suicide is not the answer.

Many people who are also personally affected by the Assisted Suicide Bill’s contents cannot join us outside the house of Commons. There are other ways you can help. Contact you MP now and share your concern.

WHY PROTEST AGAINST THE ASSISTED SUICIDE BILL?

Many ‘terminally ill’  and disabled people are deeply concerned about the proposed changes to the law on assisted suicide. We will not gain rights, we will lose rights! If the Assisted Suicide Bill becomes law, our lives will be less protected, and our sense of vulnerability will be increased. Disabled People’s Organisations the BMA and many others are opposed to this Bill and are agreed that what disabled people need is the resources to live as independently as possible and the best palliative care possible when we need it.

We shall be gathering between 9:00 and 9:30am ready for the MP’s arrival at 10am.

The vote is due to take place at 2:30pm and and we will remain until we know the result.

Remember you will be outside all day so come prepared! We can provide T Shirts, placards unless you have your own!

Please share this notice, join us on 11th Sept.

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‘What is the real motive of people making spurious claims about disabled people’s support for euthanasia/assisted suicide? Dr Ke

In ‘Real disability activists and masquerades’ (still available here on Not Dead Yet UK’s website) I countered the spurious claim that 75% of disabled people support assisted suicide/euthanasia. The so-called ‘poll’ from which that nonsense figure ‘appeared’ was the British Social Attitudes (BSA) Survey 2007. That survey yielded no information of the kind, and did not even mention: assisted suicide or euthanasia or ‘dignity’. So the claim, based on that work, had to be simple propaganda.

A follow-up poll, commissioned by promoters of euthanasia/assisted suicide law in Britain, asked four questions, three of which were simplistic one-liners. But ‘Question’ 1 was a long rehearsal of the proposals of the Falconer Bill. It could and should have been divided into at least 7 different questions. So to ask ‘Do you agree with assisted dying?’ at the end of that  much detail was also sheer nonsense – no-one could be clear what they were answering – and especially when the word ‘suicide’ was replaced by ‘dying’ to confuse matters.

This continues to beg the question ‘What is the real motive of people making spurious claims about disabled people’s support for euthanasia/assisted suicide?’ The pro-euthanasia/assisted suicide lobby continue to claim (now 80%) support amongst disabled people, but consistently ignore the majority opinion as expressed through Disabled People’s Organisations (DPOs), that such laws are not just dangerous, they threaten disabled people most of all.|

The other rather stupid claim they make is that a press to legalise euthanasia/assisted suicide has nothing to do with disability matters – yet they constantly play on the most severely disabled people as ‘piteous’ throughout their use of the media to promote their aims. This contradicts their every protest that disabled people will be safe, especially now when the most recent publicly shared deaths are not of terminally ill people, nor of disabled people but those people who declare they are so afraid of becoming disabled they would rather die. We who have lived disabled lives for many years can only watch as those with virtually no experience of being disabled reinforce the worst of these false messages ‘Being disabled is a fate worse than death’. We wonder who has been advising these people, leading them to believe this is, or must be true, and to take their lives?

Constantly portraying disabled people, and severely disabled people, as the most ‘pitiful’ examples of people who need such a law is more than false – it is a morally abhorrent when it leads people to kill themselves based on the fear of being disabled.

The pro-euthanasia/assisted suicide lobby wilfully ignore any evidence that does not suit their aim. Anyone involved in survey work will say tell you that the answers you get in polls depends on how you word your questions. The evidence of the Com Res Poll published in the Telegraph July 19 2014 showed categorically that the slight change to more honest language results in a massive drop in those supporting assisted suicide down immediately to 43%. The poll conducted by SCOPE around the same time reflected much more accurately the fears disabled people really do have about such legislation.

Therefore, it remains somewhat beyond belief that a lobby for assisted suicide can claim any view on behalf of all disabled people, never mind a massive majority in favour of their proposed law.

NDY UK on the other hand, like NDY US, is a network of disabled people working largely pro bono who have been mandated to represent the views of many disabled people. And still to-date, the majority of DPOs (UK, US, Australia, New Zealand, as well as others) – are either entirely against or have huge reservations about such a law.

Those involved with Not Dead Yet UK have a long and collective history of representing large numbers of disabled people’s rights through democratic structures and processes, and continue to seek the views of those numbers of disabled people. The world of legitimate disability activism is required to do this: it is called democracy.

But the promoters of euthanasia/assisted suicide have a clear strategy: keep repeating the lie that a majority (disabled people or otherwise) want this law, and the public will begin to believe it is so. But where is the evidence? The real evidence?

There actually isn’t any.

And the evidence we do have goes against their claims, even in their preferred model operating in Oregon and Washington State, where most people say they want to die because they do not want ‘to be a burden on others’ (40% in Oregon, 61% in Washington State).

At the tip of reality, people with dementia are dying in Belgium as are people with mental health issues – people on medication known to bring suicidal ideation or a 24 year old woman with no other health issues, as we saw just recently. Disabled new-born babies in Groningen Holland are being euthanised, and all those in the USA who ‘feel’ themselves to be a burden.

They pro-euthanasia/assisted suicide lobby know full-well that any such law in Britain will mean that innocent people will die, and first among equal candidates are disabled people.

I have repeated over some years now that any law must, by its nature, be general, covering every citizen. Which is also why it makes no sense for the pro-lobby to make a special case for disabled people. The law will be there for not just the fewer than one thousand, but each and every one out of the six hundred thousand who die in the UK every year.

But then where are the voices of the majority who do not wish to commit suicide? Where do they find justice – democracy? And the families of the five thousand, mostly younger men who commit suicide every year? How are their voices heard in this moral scrum for supposed individual choice? Despair is the end of all choice: when someone says, for whatever reason – disability or financial ruin or one of the thousand other things that drive people to despair – ‘I cannot go on’ that is not a choice – that is the end of all choices and sometimes life itself.

Oscar Wilde famously said public opinion was ‘the attempt to organise the ignorance of the community, and to elevate it to the dignity of physical force’; Russell said that ‘One should respect public opinion in so far as is necessary to avoid starvation and to keep out of prison, but anything that goes beyond this is voluntary submission to an unnecessary tyranny’; Churchill thought there was no such thing as public opinion; only published opinion.

Relying on polls for any opinion but especially on such a grave subject is not only dangerous but downright foolish.

 

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‘What is the real motive of people making spurious claims about disabled people’s support for euthanasia/assisted suicide? Dr Ke

In ‘Real disability activists and masquerades’ (still available here on Not Dead Yet UK’s website) I countered the spurious claim that 75% of disabled people support assisted suicide/euthanasia. The so-called ‘poll’ from which that nonsense figure ‘appeared’ was the British Social Attitudes (BSA) Survey 2007. That survey yielded no information of the kind, and did not even mention: assisted suicide or euthanasia or ‘dignity’. So the claim, based on that work, had to be simple propaganda.

A follow-up poll, commissioned by promoters of euthanasia/assisted suicide law in Britain, asked four questions, three of which were simplistic one-liners. But ‘Question’ 1 was a long rehearsal of the proposals of the Falconer Bill. It could and should have been divided into at least 7 different questions. So to ask ‘Do you agree with assisted dying?’ at the end of that  much detail was also sheer nonsense – no-one could be clear what they were answering – and especially when the word ‘suicide’ was replaced by ‘dying’ to confuse matters.

This continues to beg the question ‘What is the real motive of people making spurious claims about disabled people’s support for euthanasia/assisted suicide?’ The pro-euthanasia/assisted suicide lobby continue to claim (now 80%) support amongst disabled people, but consistently ignore the majority opinion as expressed through Disabled People’s Organisations (DPOs), that such laws are not just dangerous, they threaten disabled people most of all.|

The other rather stupid claim they make is that a press to legalise euthanasia/assisted suicide has nothing to do with disability matters – yet they constantly play on the most severely disabled people as ‘piteous’ throughout their use of the media to promote their aims. This contradicts their every protest that disabled people will be safe, especially now when the most recent publicly shared deaths are not of terminally ill people, nor of disabled people but those people who declare they are so afraid of becoming disabled they would rather die. We who have lived disabled lives for many years can only watch as those with virtually no experience of being disabled reinforce the worst of these false messages ‘Being disabled is a fate worse than death’. We wonder who has been advising these people, leading them to believe this is, or must be true, and to take their lives?

Constantly portraying disabled people, and severely disabled people, as the most ‘pitiful’ examples of people who need such a law is more than false – it is a morally abhorrent when it leads people to kill themselves based on the fear of being disabled.

The pro-euthanasia/assisted suicide lobby wilfully ignore any evidence that does not suit their aim. Anyone involved in survey work will say tell you that the answers you get in polls depends on how you word your questions. The evidence of the Com Res Poll published in the Telegraph July 19 2014 showed categorically that the slight change to more honest language results in a massive drop in those supporting assisted suicide down immediately to 43%. The poll conducted by SCOPE around the same time reflected much more accurately the fears disabled people really do have about such legislation.

Therefore, it remains somewhat beyond belief that a lobby for assisted suicide can claim any view on behalf of all disabled people, never mind a massive majority in favour of their proposed law.

NDY UK on the other hand, like NDY US, is a network of disabled people working largely pro bono who have been mandated to represent the views of many disabled people. And still to-date, the majority of DPOs (UK, US, Australia, New Zealand, as well as others) – are either entirely against or have huge reservations about such a law.

Those involved with Not Dead Yet UK have a long and collective history of representing large numbers of disabled people’s rights through democratic structures and processes, and continue to seek the views of those numbers of disabled people. The world of legitimate disability activism is required to do this: it is called democracy.

But the promoters of euthanasia/assisted suicide have a clear strategy: keep repeating the lie that a majority (disabled people or otherwise) want this law, and the public will begin to believe it is so. But where is the evidence? The real evidence?

There actually isn’t any.

And the evidence we do have goes against their claims, even in their preferred model operating in Oregon and Washington State, where most people say they want to die because they do not want ‘to be a burden on others’ (40% in Oregon, 61% in Washington State).

At the tip of reality, people with dementia are dying in Belgium as are people with mental health issues – people on medication known to bring suicidal ideation or a 24 year old woman with no other health issues, as we saw just recently. Disabled new-born babies in Groningen Holland are being euthanised, and all those in the USA who ‘feel’ themselves to be a burden.

They pro-euthanasia/assisted suicide lobby know full-well that any such law in Britain will mean that innocent people will die, and first among equal candidates are disabled people.

I have repeated over some years now that any law must, by its nature, be general, covering every citizen. Which is also why it makes no sense for the pro-lobby to make a special case for disabled people. The law will be there for not just the fewer than one thousand, but each and every one out of the six hundred thousand who die in the UK every year.

But then where are the voices of the majority who do not wish to commit suicide? Where do they find justice – democracy? And the families of the five thousand, mostly younger men who commit suicide every year? How are their voices heard in this moral scrum for supposed individual choice? Despair is the end of all choice: when someone says, for whatever reason – disability or financial ruin or one of the thousand other things that drive people to despair – ‘I cannot go on’ that is not a choice – that is the end of all choices and sometimes life itself.

Oscar Wilde famously said public opinion was ‘the attempt to organise the ignorance of the community, and to elevate it to the dignity of physical force’; Russell said that ‘One should respect public opinion in so far as is necessary to avoid starvation and to keep out of prison, but anything that goes beyond this is voluntary submission to an unnecessary tyranny’; Churchill thought there was no such thing as public opinion; only published opinion.

Relying on polls for any opinion but especially on such a grave subject is not only dangerous but downright foolish.

 

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Latest updates courtesy of Living and Dying Well

[UK] ‘ECtHR declares case concerning UK ban on assisted suicide and voluntary euthanasia inadmissible’ 17 July, Scottish Legal News

http://www.scottishlegal.com/2015/07/16/ecthr-declares-case-concerning-uk-ban-on-assisted-suicide-and-voluntary-euthanasia-inadmissible/

“In its decision in the case of Nicklinson and Lamb v the United Kingdom (application nos. 2478/15 and 1787/15) the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has unanimously declared the applications inadmissible. The decision is final.”

[UK] ‘Consider evidence, not just emotion on “assisted dying’’’, 16 July, The Commentator

http://www.thecommentator.com/article/5981/consider_evidence_not_just_emotion_on_assisted_dying

“While making assisted suicide easier can be made to sound seductive, it is incredibly dangerous and open to abuse. A new bill in the British parliament is both unsafe and unnecessary, says Agnes Fletcher of Living and Dying Well.”

[UK] ‘Right-to-die campaigners’ case rejected in Europe’ 16 July, BBC News

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-33547155

“A bid by UK campaigners to overturn the law on assisted dying has been rejected by the European Court of Human Rights.”

[UK] ‘Move to overturn UK assisted suicide law fails’ 16 July, The Guardian

http://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/jul/16/assisted-suicide-voluntary-euthanasia-european-court-human-rights

“European court rejects applications from Jane Nicklinson, whose husband suffered from locked-in syndrome, and car crash victim Paul Lamb.”

[UK] ‘Campaigner vows to win war after right-to-die court defeat’ 16 July, BT News

https://home.bt.com/news/uk-news/right-to-die-european-court-rejects-paul-lamb-and-tony-nicklinsons-widow-case-11363992770485

“The widow of right-to-die campaigner Tony Nicklinson has said her family’s legal battle has ended after losing their case in the European Court of Human Rights – but vowed to win the war.”

[UK] ‘Actress: ‘I’m terrified by Marris’ assisted suicide Bill’ 16 July, The Christian Institute

http://www.christian.org.uk/news/actress-im-terrified-by-marris-assisted-suicide-bill/

“Disabled actress and comedian Liz Carr has given a powerful speech against proposals to introduce assisted suicide during an address for anti-euthanasia organisation Not Dead Yet UK.”

[UK] ‘Daughters forced to cancel fundraising party to send their motor-neurone-stricken mother to Dignitas after police warn they could be prosecuted for assisted suicide’ 16 July, The Daily Mail

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3164220/Daughters-forced-cancel-fundraising-party-send-motor-neurone-stricken-mother-Dignitas-police-warn-prosecuted-assisted-suicide.html#ixzz3gA45oYxg

“Two daughters were forced to cancel a fundraising evening to raise money for their mother to travel to Dignitas after police warned they could be prosecuted.”

[UK] ‘Scots target assisted dying after winning hunt battle’ 15 July, The Times

http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/news/politics/article4498157.ece

“The SNP is considering an ambush on assisted dying as part of a war of attrition by Nicola Sturgeon over the treatment of her MPs in the Commons.”

[UK] ‘Flaws evident in Assisted Dying Bill’ 15 July, South Wales Echo

http://www.walesonline.co.uk/incoming/south-wales-echo-letters-wednesday-9659343

“Are proponents of this Bill naïve enough to believe this Bill will be only contained to the terminally ill? The sad, but inescapable, conclusion is that today, in our advanced Western society, the individual is increasingly only seen as being of value so long as he or she remains “useful”.”

[NZ] ‘Survey doesn’t show doctors’ views’ 14 July, New Zealand Radio News

http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/national/278712/survey-doesn’t-show-doctors’-views-nzma

“Nearly 12 percent of general practitioners surveyed by the magazine New Zealand Doctor say they have helped a terminally ill person die. But the New Zealand Medical Association says the survey does not reflect doctors’ views.”

[USA] ‘As assisted suicide laws spread, cancer survivors, disabled object’ 13 July, McClatchy DC

http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/nation-world/national/article26972707.html

“Imani Sippio, and her mother Chasity Phillips in Abita Springs, La., on June 17th, 2015. In 2002, Phillips was diagnosed with incurable bone cancer in her chest; despite being terminally ill, she has managed to live a rich, full life with pain management. “There was nothing I wasn’t willing to do to have one more day with my child,” said Phillips of her diagnosis.”

[UK] ‘Shadow disability minister admits backing assisted suicide bill’, 13 July, Disability News Service:

http://www.disabilitynewsservice.com/shadow-disability-minister-admits-backing-assisted-suicide-bill/

The shadow disability minister has admitted that many disabled activists may be “horrified” and “outraged” to learn that she is in favour of legalising assisted suicide.”

[UK] ‘Jeremy Corbyn’ 31 March, Islington Gazette

http://www.islingtongazette.co.uk/seasonal/election/jeremy_corbyn_1_4016434

“I don’t believe we should be talking about assisted dying until our social care and health care systems have been improved sufficiently with focus on the sick and elderly, especially since we are living in an age where longevity is on the rise and so many more elderly people are in need of health care.”

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The Debate continues

First a big “well done” to all those of you who were able to attend the lobby on the 14th July. Around 30 MP’s attended which is a good number based on experience. It is still vitally important that we all keep the pressure on by contacting our MP’s to put our side of the argument on Assisted Suicide.

Here is a personal and very interesting view on the issue written by Robert Twycross a retired palliative care specialist. We are grateful to him for allowing us to reproduce it here

 

Personal view: Medically-assisted suicide

On September 11, the Second Reading of the Assisted Dying (AD) Bill takes place in the House of Commons. This would allow a terminally ill adult in England or Wales to have a lethal prescription for self-administration, supervised by ‘an attending health professional’ (doctor or nurse). The key prerequisite is a life expectancy of less than six months; the patient does not have to be in physical or mental distress. The Bill is not about long-term progressive conditions such as multiple sclerosis or dementia. Opinion polls indicate that 80% of the public favour medically-assisted suicide. In contrast, 90% of palliative care doctors are against. Why?

The main justification for such a fundamental change in the law is the right to self-determination: people should have the right to choose the time and mode of their death. Supporting arguments centre on the limits of palliative care and compassion (‘it’s compassionate to assist someone to die who is suffering unbearably; it’s cruel to force them to continue to suffer’).

However, despite upsetting ‘horror stories’ (possibly some in your own family), palliative care does not (at least, should not) leave patients to suffer unbearably. In extreme situations, increasing the dose of symptom relief and sedative drugs is already permissible as a ‘last resort option’. The most appropriate response to horror stories is to increase the availability of specialist palliative care. Interestingly, Lord Falconer has said that the primary reason for wanting to change the law is not uncontrolled pain but the intolerable thought of lost independence.

Restrictions on self-determination are legitimate if other people are likely to be endangered. Thus, the debate about AD centres on the question: can a law be devised which would allow terminally ill people to end their lives (should they wish to) without endangering others (who do not want to)? Already some people fear (and refuse) palliative care because they fear they will be ‘done away with’ – and suffer as a result. This number would surely increase if AD became lawful, enhancing the perception of doctors and nurses as potential killers.

Although both sides claim compassion as a major motivation, palliative care and AD are essentially mutually exclusive philosophies. Palliative care is based on the belief that life has meaning and purpose up to the moment of death, whereas AD is essentially nihilistic. Expecting health professionals to deliver both palliative care and AD – to face in two directions simultaneously – is simply too big an ask. Chris Woodhead, an AD activist who suffered from motor neurone disease, said:

‘The only way you can deal with [terminal illness] is to live from day to day… The more limited your world, the richer it can become… There are benefits. You can be brought closer to people who love you. This has brought me closer to [my wife]. That is something to be grateful for.’

These sentiments reflect well the ethos of palliative care.

The common denominator in patients who desire to hasten death is despair – a sense of hopelessness, helplessness and lack of control – related to actual or anticipated severe pain or other distressing symptom, loss of independence, and becoming a burden. The wish to hasten death is generally not constant unless the patient has a depressive illness, which normally responds to treatment. In practice, almost all patients change their minds when in receipt of high-quality palliative care. In fact, an expressed wish by a terminally ill person to hasten death does not mean they want AD; they want to be heard, to express their frustrations and fears, to be understood.

Prognosis, when more than a few weeks, can be wildly inaccurate. Some patients live much longer than estimated, sometimes 10–20 years. There is also risk of coercion: both doctor-on-patient and family-on-doctor. A Dutch doctor commented:

‘In the past, if I suggested euthanasia (a lethal injection administered by a doctor), nine times out of ten the patient would choose euthanasia; now when I suggest palliative care, they choose palliative care’.

In Belgium after 13 years of euthanasia, families much more consider dying as undignified, useless, and meaningless, even when it is peaceful; and demands for fast active interventions, particularly in relation to elderly parents, are increasingly direct.

Indeed, once the barrier of legislation is passed, AD seems to take on a dynamic of its own. Last year in the Netherlands, a member of a Regional Euthanasia Review Committee wrote:

‘Whereas the law sees assisted suicide and euthanasia as an exception, public opinion is shifting towards considering them rights, with corresponding duties on doctors to act… Don’t go there.’

In contrast in the UK, the law at present provides a clear ‘bright line’. It may occasionally be crossed by doctors (and others) but it is unambiguous. Indeed, it is perfectly consistent to argue that medically-assisted dying is ethically legitimate in some extreme cases but that it would be wrong to change the law. As now, it could be better to allow hard cases to be taken care of by various expedients than to introduce new legislation which would become too permissive.

 

 

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Questions and Answers re Assisted Suicide

Why do you oppose a change in the law?

We’re concerned that people who are sick or disabled may feel pressured to make decisions about their lives based on concerns about being a burden, rather than an objective decision about whether they want to live or die.

We’d like to see the law changed so there’s a right to live a full and active life, rather than a right to ask a doctor for assisted suicide.

It looks like many disabled people are in favour of a change in the law? There’s even an organisation of disabled people campaigning for it.

The objective research on this is very limited. Most disability organisations and charities have said they don’t want the law to change because they’re concerned about the dangers it would bring.

It looks like the general public is in favour of a change in the law?

The general public also has said it wants to bring back hanging. This is a complicated debate, and it’s important not to be swayed by sensationalist headlines or simplistic opinion surveys. In the meantime, a change in the law would put disabled people directly in the firing line – the risks are huge.

Don’t you think people should have more choice about how they die?

People should certainly have more choice about how they live. If we lived in a society that fully supported disabled people’s choice and control, then having an informed debate on assisted suicide would be more straightforward. But we don’t. Instead, we’re seeing swingeing cuts to disability benefits and social care, and an increase in disability hate crime. Being disabled in the current climate is challenging enough, without putting assisted suicide on the table.

Doesn’t your opposition to change, and the current law, mean that you are condemning people who are dying to misery at the end of their lives?

We have one of the best health services in the world, and medical support around end of life care is improving all the time. If palliative care services are prioritised and fully funded, people would get the care and support they need at the end of their lives.

In the meantime, the law we have has a stern face, but an understanding heart. It holds serious penalties in reserve to deter abuse and manipulation. It combines deterrence with compassion: it gives us the best of both worlds.

Campaigners say this isn’t about disabled people, it’s about people who are terminally ill. Why are you worrying about it?

Because it is about disabled people. Being terminally ill isn’t an exact science, and we all know examples of people who have been labelled as terminally ill and since recovered. Disabled people are often considered, in our society, to have lives which are not worth living. It’s not a big step for people to conclude ‘Well, they don’t have a great life so isn’t it better for everyone if they have the right to kill themselves.’

It’s working OK in other countries isn’t it?

No. There’s limited records in Oregan, which is often highlighted as an exemplar. What we do know is that there is limited psychological testing for people who say they want assisted suicide; and there has been an increase in the number of people who have depression who have been given suicide drugs by doctors.

Campaigners have said there will be powerful safeguards in place; you don’t need to worry?

The law is an imperfect thing. Safeguards are also imperfect. Coercion is rarely obvious, and the current law protects us from malicious manipulation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some tips on doing interviews…

 

Media interviews – remember to ask beforehand:

 

  • Who is calling
  • Where they’re calling from
  • What they want to talk about and why they’re calling you
  • If it’s broadcast, whether the interview is live or pre-recorded
  • Whether it is in a studio or elsewhere
  • Who will do the interview
  • Who else is being interviewed with you (it might be someone from DADID or Dignity in Dying)

 

Media interviews – Do

 

  • Spend a few minutes thinking through, or talking to someone else about, the main issues. Use the opportunity to read through the NDY briefing materials
  • Leave yourself plenty of time to get to the venue, if you need to get somewhere
  • Ask what the first question will be
  • Have in your head three main points you want to make
  • Make your three points simply and positively
  • If it’s TV, ‘ook at the interviewer, not the camera or microphone
  • Be passionate about what you’re saying

 

Media interviews – Don’t:

 

  • Be late!
  • Fail to return promised calls
  • Go off the record, unless you trust the journalist
  • Think you’re not being recorded
  • Wear checks, stripes, sunglasses or loud colours
  • Wear leather coats or noisy jewellery
  • Fidget – it looks and sounds bad
  • Worry about silences – it’s their job to fill them, not yours
  • Answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’ – use the opportunity to steer things

 

Other things to remember…

 

  • ‘I don’t know’ is fine – you don’t have to be an expert on everything
  • Be decisive about interruptions – it can look and sound bad
  • Avoid waffle
  • Good manners tends to win friends more than confrontations, but don’t be afraid to be assertive and clear.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Changing the subject

 

An interview is an opportunity to tell the world about what you’re doing and why it is important. Sometimes, however, interviews can end up being frustrating because the interviewer doesn’t cover the areas you want then to. Don’t forget, interviewers may know very little about the subject they’re talking to you about. That gives you the opportunity to steer things the way you want them to go.

 

Here are some ways you can take control of an interview:

 

  • ‘What I think is interesting…’
  • ‘I’m not sure, but the most important thing here is…’
  • ‘That’s not the point – what we should be looking at is…’
  • ‘There has been some discussion about that but…’

 

OR

 

  • ‘I really don’t agree…’
  • ‘Some may have that view – I don’t…’
  • ‘That really is nonsense…’

 

 

NDY 2015

 

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Baroness Finlay on palliative care and Latest VBlog from Sian Vasey

Baroness Finlay, co-chair of Living and Dying Well, argues for palliative care reform in her recent Huffington Post blog: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/baroness-ilora-finlay/palliative-care-services-_b_7735322.html

Here’s the link to Sian’s latest VBlog

Sian Vasey VBlog