Once again those who want to see a change in the law on assisted suicide are suggesting that disabled people support this proposal. Not Dead Yet UK challenges this assertion in a letter to the Daily Telegraph posted below.
Baroness Meacher, Chairman of Dignity in Dying, claims that “[t]he vast majority of disabled people support assisted dying for the terminally ill” (Letters, Telegraph, August 10, 2016).
This fallacy ignores the fact that in the UK, not one organisation of disabled people supports the legalisation of assisted suicide or euthanasia. When the Assisted Dying Bill was before the Parliament on the 11th September 2015, many of these groups, along side some of the highest profile disabled politicians and actors were vocal both in the media and outside Parliament to ensure their call for ‘assistance to live, not to die’ could not be ignored.
Many of these disability groups, as well as numerous individuals, put their name to a statement and letter to the editor, clarifying this position as, “We are opposed to the legalisation of Assisted Suicide. It will remove equality and choice from disabled people and further contribute to our oppression. If the Assisted Dying Bill is passed, some Disabled people and terminally ill people’s lives will be ended without their consent through mistakes, subtle pressure and abuse. No safeguards have ever been enacted or proposed that can prevent this outcome – an outcome that can never be undone.” https://www.
inclusionlondon.org.uk/ campaigns-and-policy/facts- and-information/equality-and- human-rights/reclaiming-our- futures-alliance-statement- opposing-the-legalisation-of- assisted-suicide-2/
In 2014, SCOPE, one of the foremost disability organisations in the UK, polled over 1000 disabled people specifically on the issue of legalising assisted suicide. The poll found that 64% of disabled people – including 72% of young disabled people – are concerned about moves to introduce assisted suicide, believing such a law could put pressure on them to end their lives prematurely.
Finally, while Baroness Meacher says this is an issue about terminal illness and not ‘disability’, I suggest she is yet again misguided. Almost all of the high profile cases of people calling for assisted suicide are people who are ill or disabled, but not usually terminally so. In all of the countries, where assisted suicide and euthanasia has been legalised, the laws have been extended to include explicitly disabled people who are not dying. Furthermore, in the USA where only four states have passed such legislation, the reasons given for people doing so have everything to do with a disability with the top reasons being a loss of dignity, loss of autonomy and loss of ability to do day to day activities.
The vast majority of disabled people continue to oppose a change in the law and remain relieved that on the 11th September 2015, Parliament overwhelmingly defeated the Assisted Dying Bill by 330 – 118 votes.
Liz Carr on behalf of Not Dead Yet UK