Have a look at this weblink. It seems that assisted suicide is now available as an entertainment for those seeking new thrills! It was only a matter of time I suppose
Italy joins Bulgaria and France in blocking euthanasia as new withdrawal of treatment case about to be heard in Britain- http://t.co/hhuj1mn
Emmerdale injects some reality into its depiction of the sequelae of assisted suicide – http://t.co/RhUYZrh
More brief euthanasia updates from around the world – some good, some bad – http://t.co/NmytTks
Charlie Falconer confirms bias in composition of his Commission on Assisted Dying ahead of BMA debate on its legitimacy- http://t.co/CBnqcTz
The British Medical Association Annual Conference Motion totally discrediting The DEMOS Commission on Assisted Dying was warmly welcomed by Not Dead yet UK.
In a statement, Baroness Campbell of Surbiton, said: “we hope today’s rejection of Lord Falconer ‘s Commission by the BMA will send out a clear signal that the campaign aimed at legalising assisted dying and euthanasia, is dangerous and unwelcome”. Recently Not Dead yet UK criticised the BBC for becoming one of the cheerleaders for the assisted dying campaign. In the last three years there have been five major programmes (one a 90-minute play) presenting assisted suicide in a sympathetic light – with not one programme promoting the alternative put forward by disabled and terminally ill people who do not want the law changed. This has had a chilling effect on countless disabled and terminally ill people who feel the time is turning against them when it comes to support to live with dignity and equality.
“The Motion before the BMA Annual Conference criticised the strong pro-euthanasia bias of the members of the Commission, questioning its stated impartiality, and called on the BMA Ethics Committee to make the Association’s opposition to assisted suicide and euthanasia clear to the Commission. Baroness Campbell went on to say, “This is a huge relief to disabled and terminally ill people who rely on doctors to give support and the best possible health care when their impairment or illness is at its most challenging.”
For further details please contact Phil Friend who runs the Not Dead yet UK website…
305 Motion by THE AGENDA COMMITTEE (Motion to be proposed by the YORKSHIRE REGIONAL COUNCIL): That this Meeting:-
i) notes that the significant majority of members of Lord Falconer’s Commission on Assisted Dying are publically in favour of assisted suicide and euthanasia;
ii) supports the BMA’s stance in not giving evidence to the DEMOS Commission on Assisted Dying;
iii) questions the stated impartiality and independence of the Commission on Assisted Dying;
iv) requests the BMA Ethics Committee to make the Association’s opposition to assisted suicide and euthanasia clear to the Commission on Assisted Dying;
v) requests the BMJ editorial team to present a balanced and unbiased coverage of the Commission on Assisted Dying.
British Medical Association undermines credibility of Falconer Commission on Assisted Dying by questioning its impartiality and independence- http://bit.ly/lbYTuW
Assisted Dying Meeting
St George’s House, Windsor Castle
“Assisted Dying: Be careful what you wish for!”
Baroness Jane Campbell, of Surbiton, DBE
15 June 2010
I am very pleased to be here today to contribute to this important St. George’s House consultation. I want to talk to you from my personal perspective as a severely disabled person and as Convenor of Not Dead Yet UK. For those of you who may not know already, Not Dead Yet UK is a network of disabled and terminally ill people opposed to any change in the law regarding assisted suicide. I want to concentrate on three issues that are often raised by members of Not Dead Yet UK: choice, safety and equal value.
Calls for Assisted Dying to be legalised have grown from a background murmur into a roar since my colleague and friend here, Lord Joffe, tabled his Assisted Dying for the Terminally Ill Bill in 2003. His bill led to a House of Lords Committee on the issue and a revised Bill was put before the House in 2005. Despite the Bill being defeated, several Members of both houses have stated their intention to bring another, revised Bill back in this Parliament. In the past few years there has been considerable press interest in assisted suicide. We have seen the high profile Court cases of both Diane Pretty and Diane Purdy. There have been numerous accounts of Britons going to Dignitas. Most recently a high profile celebrity, Terry Pratchett has taken up the cause.
These developments are beginning to have a serious effect on the lives of disabled people. Disabled people, many of whom have progressive or terminal conditions, are becoming increasingly worried about a reform that is supposed to help them, when their situation becomes unbearable. The consensus would seem to be that there is nothing more humane than assisting another person to die, especially if that person is in pain, distress or expected to die within months, rather than years.
Proponents of legalising this approach have, with each successive rejection, re-drafted their plans to narrow the eligibility criteria. However, most would agree that, should I wish to end my life, I should be assisted to do so, since I would find it impossible without such help. I couldn’t leap from a tall building, unless someone put a lift in first. I couldn’t swim out to sea, unless someone put me on a lilo and towed me out into deep water. I couldn’t cut my wrists, unless someone else held the knife. I couldn’t swallow a bottle of aspirin unless someone opened the bottle for me and patiently lifted the glass to my lips. Surely then, I should welcome the option to end my life at a time of my choosing, as others who choose suicide do? After all, suicide is not illegal.
The proponents of legalising Assisted Dying, very few of whom are terminally ill or disabled, certainly want to give me the option of “choice”. It is not unusual for me to be told, “I couldn’t live like you ” or “You’re so brave, I know if I were in your position I wouldn’t cope ”. ..
I wonder how you would you feel if others thought you’d be better off dead? OK, that might be a bit strong. How would you feel if people assume you want to die because, in their eyes, your life must be unbearable? That’s their mistake you might say. But if they are the doctors and nurses treating you when you’re seriously ill and fighting for your life, it’s a mistake you might not live for them to regret. What if they’ve already assisted 1, 2, 5, or 20 people like you to die? How hard are they going to fight to keep you alive?
Research in Holland has shown that what began as a very unusual end-of-life choice for those in the last few weeks of a terminal illness, soon became a routine option for disabled people without a terminal diagnosis. Perhaps the most compelling evidence given to the House of Lords came from Dr Bert Keizer, who worked as a geriatrician in Amsterdam for a quarter of a century and carried out many “physician-assisted suicides”– the basis of his book “Dancing with Mr D”. Dr Keizer said, — (and I quote): “It is useless to worry about the slippery slope. Once a society has decided that euthanasia is allowed in certain cases, one is on it. Thus in Holland we have given up the condition that a patient must be in a terminal situation. Next, mental suffering was allowed [as a reason]. Then one’s future dementia was suggested as a reason for a request for death . . . I believe, on the grounds of the more than 1,000 deathbeds I attended, that euthanasia is a blessing in certain exceptional situations, yet I would rather die in a country where euthanasia is forbidden but where doctors do know how to look after patients in a humane manner.” — (end of quote).
It is all too easy to make assumptions about lives very different from our own; All too easy to believe that another life has less quality than our own, simply because it is different; All too easy, to believe that we wouldn’t be able to cope if our circumstances were to change dramatically; All too easy to believe that our family and friends would not accept illness and disability; All too easy to assume difference means less and change can only be negative. The reality is dramatically different. Working alongside disabled people and listening to their stories, I understand why they fear the slippery slope.
Daniel James went to Dignitas, 18 months after a rugby accident broke his neck. Press reports almost unanimously conveyed it as a tragic but completely understandable act. His wish to die was considered acceptable because he had become seriously disabled. The same desire to die in a non-disabled person of any age, whatever their problem, would be considered to be unreasonable and potentially a sign of mental illness. To many people Daniel James’s desire to end his life, whilst deeply regrettable, was understandable (i.e. they empathised with it) for no other reason than that he had lost physical function. This “understanding” of a disabled or terminally ill person’s wish to die is deeply demeaning to most terminally ill and disabled people. It sends out entirely the wrong message to those newly disabled or diagnosed with a terminal illness. Indeed, society’s “understanding” of Daniel James’s decision may have contributed directly to it. We are not immune to the drip-drip negativity of what it is to be disabled. It is prejudice and it is disability discrimination.
When we talked about this in Not Dead Yet UK, one of our members, Dr Ian Basnett, now a talented Director of Public Health, took us back to when he was a Junior Doctor working in a hospital A&E department. He encountered young men admitted with broken necks as the result of motorbike and workplace accidents. He remembers thinking he would rather die than live with a broken back or neck. He subsequently did break his neck in a rugby accident. He felt for a long time after his accident (at least three years) that life was not worth living. He is in no doubt that he would have done the same as Daniel James during those years if it had been possible. He says that, if Daniel James had not become tetraplegic but wished to die as the result of some other life changing event – say, the death of a child, psychiatrists, doctors and lawyers would say he had post traumatic stress disorder and needed support to come to terms with that situation. Suicide would never have been considered a rational response. To see suicide as the right solution is to abandon hope. Ian and members of NDY UK believe there will always be individuals who ask for society to be complicit in their premature deaths, especially after experiencing life changing illness or disability. Society must treat disabled and terminally ill people as everyone else is treated: as people with rights and responsibilities, able to make a contribution to our collective well being. Entitled to help to live, not help to die.
Some of you may be thinking, “Yes, that’s all very well. We know YOU don’t want to die. We know most disabled people don’t want to die. That’s not the issue. Assisted dying is all about helping the few, perhaps the very few, who genuinely want to die. Surely we can change the law to help them?” This is the stated aim of some in the House of Lords. It begins to feel like they are engaging in a “Sudoku” puzzle they are determined to crack. I say that we live in a society where disabled people are not given an equal say, especially those whose choice is often one of living unsupported lives in inaccessible homes, or death. Drafting legislation that empowers the few whilst protecting the many is, needless to say, a challenge!
Perhaps it’s worth reflecting on that other area of assisted dying that the state took a settled view on several years ago – capital punishment! Received wisdom is that if asked in a referendum, the British public would call for the re-introduction of capital punishment. Yet successive governments for the last 40 years have kept clear of the issue. The view is that, even with tightly drawn laws mistakes are possible. A wrongly convicted prisoner can gain freedom but the executed cannot be resurrected. There’s also the view that the state taking the lives of its citizens, is wrong, not on religious grounds but because it is an affront to civilisation. Many who support assisted suicide look disapprovingly on countries that continue to practise capital punishment, suspecting their motives and accusing them of “human rights abuses”.
The fact that many murderers admit their guilt, that many cases are “open and shut” without any room for doubt does not sway us in the view that capital punishment is wrong. Even if a murderer were to plead to be executed, to vow to kill again until himself killed, the state does not sanction his execution. We would not answer his plea to be killed. Yet, despite this, to take the life of a severely ill or disabled person at his or her own request is now being promoted as a noble act worthy of the state’s blessing.
Disabled people know about choice and control. We know that assisted suicide is not about free choice and self-determination. The evidence from the state of Oregon shows that it undermines patient control. We cannot understand why Oregon is continuously cited as safe and working well? The number of assisted suicides there has risen fourfold in the 12 years since the law was enacted. Research indicates that as many as one in six of those who have killed themselves with the help of lethal drugs from their doctors were suffering from depression. Moreover, there is no way of knowing under the Oregon law whether, once lethal drugs have been issued, they are taken as intended – i.e. by the person concerned without anyone else’s involvement.
NDYUK was formed because we realised the voice of the majority of disabled and terminally ill people was not being heard in the debate on assisted suicide. We believe we can help by showing how important it is to debate this issue in the context of society’s cultural response to illness and disability. No organisation of or for disabled or terminally ill people has campaigned for a change in the law, to allow assisted suicide. You may have been wondering why the people a change in the law is intended to help, are so set against it? I hope my paper has helped you recognise our fears to be genuine. A change in the law would not only be bad for disabled and terminally ill people, it would be bad for society.
The question before Parliament isn’t whether ‘assisted dying’ is desirable or undesirable, whether it’s moral or immoral, whether it’s compassionate or cruel. It can be any or all of those things depending on your point of view. The essential question is: can a law be made to license it in advance without putting the public at risk?
Many of us might break the law in extreme situations. We might drive well above the speed limit to get a desperately sick child to hospital, we might steal to feed a hungry family, we might injure or even kill an intruder in self-defence. But would we seriously consider making a law that licensed such actions in advance provided a check list of so-called safeguards had been complied with? I think not.
‘Assisted dying’ is no different. Most people recognise that an individual act of ‘assisted dying’ might be acceptable in exceptional situations. The problem is that, when you make a law to license something, you are taking the act out of the ‘exceptional’ category – simply because we do not make laws to cover exceptional situations. An ‘assisted dying’ law would, in effect, be creating a routine process.
Anyone who doubts this should look at what is happening in the US State of Oregon. If you take the latest death rate from legalised physician-assisted suicide in Oregon and apply that to the population of Britain, you end of with around 1200 assisted suicides a year here. Contrast this with the 10 to 20 cases of assisted suicide that occur every year in Britain now. Assisted suicide is a very rare occurrence here precisely because it is against the law. That makes those involved think very hard before going ahead and that is why assisted suicide is rarely prosecuted. Change the law, however, and you are into a completely different ball game – the process becomes routine.
The so-called safeguards that the campaigners boast of are not, in any real sense, safeguards at all. In Oregon, which is the model for their proposals, research into a sample of assisted suicide deaths showed that in one in six cases the mental capacity test had not been fully carried out – people had been given lethal drugs and died even though they were suffering from undiagnosed depression. And, again, in Oregon there is no means of knowing whether, when people come to take the lethal drugs given to them (which can be months or even years later), they are not being coerced or have become mentally incapable or are being otherwise subject to manipulation. The system simply isn’t safe by any normal standards of law-making.
Much is made of opinion polls which appear to indicate that a majority of the population want an ‘assisted dying’ law. This is a complex and emotive subject and the public are subjected to active opinion forming. Only a few weeks ago one of Dignity in Dying’s patrons stated on the radio that ‘we have to build a sense of public outrage’. Opinion polls favoured going to war in 1914 and appeasement in the 1930s. Today they regularly favour the restoration of capital punishment and other causes on which Parliament, wisely, declines to be stampeded.
Parliament has wisely rejected calls for ‘assisted dying’ legislation, not (as the campaigners like to claim) because of religious pressure – anyone who reads the record of the debates will see there is no truth whatever in this – but simply because it isn’t safe to unleash onto the public. The campaigners focus their attention on a tiny minority of people who are serious about this and it is around them that their proposals are drafted. But we have to remember that terminal illness is a highly stressful event and that most people who find themselves in this situation are not the cool-headed, resolute and self-confident people whom the campaigners envisage. The law is there to give protection to the majority, not to provide facilities for a minority. We need to think with our heads as well as feel with our hearts.
Covert Euthanasia (‘Doctors are already doing it…’)
The evidence that exists for this claim is based on anonymous surveys of doctors. It concludes that illegal action by doctors in Britain is (and I quote) ‘extremely rare’, and interestingly comparisons with other countries which have legalised ‘assisted dying’ (Holland, Belgium) show that the incidence of illegal action in those countries is higher than in Britain. While one understands why such surveys need to be anonymous, the fact remains that anonymous information cannot be subjected to scrutiny and cannot, therefore, relied on as substantial evidence. By contrast the official reports from the Oregon Health Department are clear and incontrovertible – the incidence of legalised assisted suicide has risen fourfold in the last 12 years.
The Director of Public Prosecutions has made clear the basis on which he will reach decisions on whether to prosecute the very small number of cases of assisted suicide that come before him each year. He has set out the factors that will incline him to prosecute or not to prosecute. There is nothing unusual about this. Other criminal laws are treated in the same way. The degree of criminality varies from case to case, and every case has to be judged on its merits. It is clear, however, that no one is being prosecuted who should not be.
One of the DPP’s ‘aggravating factors’ is where assistance has been given by a doctor or nurse. The campaigners, who want to build their schemes into the health care system, are alleging that this encourages what they call ‘amateur assistance’. This is not the case. What the DPP is saying is that, given the relationship of trust that must exist between a doctor and patient and the reliance that seriously people necessarily place on their doctors’ and nurses’ judgements, it would be an abuse of their positions for doctors or nurses to participate in this. But this is not to give the green light for ‘amateurs’ to assist: it is simply a warning that health care professionals are in a special position of trust.
We need to get the Dignitas phenomenon into proportion. Less than 1 in 50,000 deaths of Britons in the last 10 years has been at Mr Minelli’s suicide apartment. They make headlines precisely because they are so exceptional. Most deaths in this country are peaceful and go unreported for that reason – as does successful surgery or the safe landings of airliners.
What’s wrong with the ‘safeguards’?
Prognosis The first question most people ask when told they are terminally ill, is ‘How long have I got?’ As a parliamentary select committee was told a few years ago by expert witnesses, prognosis at a range of six months is highly unreliable. Look at the Libyan Abdelbasset al Megrahi. Released from prison on the basis of a 3-months prognosis, he is alive two years later. His case is not by any means exceptional. Some people in Oregon who are being given lethal drugs on the basis of a six months prognosis are living months or, in a few cases, years longer.
Mental Capacity A suicide wish is normally regarded as grounds for psychiatric referral. But the campaigners tell us that it’s different in the case of assisted suicide – there should only be a referral if a doctor has doubts. But this would offer a lesser standard of protection to some people than to others. Then there is the problem of cognitive impairment, which is widespread in neurological illnesses and not uncommon in others – not to mention the side-effects of medication.
And then, of course, there is clinical depression. I have already referred to the situation in Oregon, where depressed patients are not being referred for psychiatric examination and are being given lethal drugs with which to end their lives.
Voluntariness There is no suggestion in the campaigners’ proposals for any kind of in-depth investigation of whether a person seeking ‘assisted dying’ is seriously resolved or acting out of a sense of obligation to others – indeed, we hear some campaigners say from time to time that acting out of a wish to spare others shouldn’t be a bar to ‘assisted dying’!. Their proposals simply leave it for the doctor to form a view of the matter. But how many doctors these days know their patients that well – very few.
Oversight As I’ve already pointed out, there are no safeguards governing the proper use of lethal drugs once they have been handed out. They could be swallowed by a child or administered to a terminally ill patient by force or mixed in with food surreptitiously. No witnesses are required and no one would know. The system is wide open to abuse. We should not forget that, while most relatives are loving and caring, there are those who are not.
 Edward Turner, son of the late Dr Anne Turner – World This Weekend