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Assisted dying assisted suicide Disability Meacher Bil

We Need Help to Live Not To Die.

The briefing below lays out NDYUK’s concerns about the Meacher Bill and was used at the APPG for Dying Well webinar in July 2021


Assisted suicide bills introduced at Westminster and Holyrood

Baroness Meacher speaking in the Lords

Baroness Molly Meacher, the chair of Dignity in Dying, has introduced a bill in the House of Lords to make assisted suicide legal. The second reading is expected in the autumn.

MSP Liam McArthur has laid a similar bill before the Scottish Parliament.

Not Dead Yet UK’s view

Those who support the Meacher bill and campaigners outside Parliament use the term assisted dying. That is a euphemism. This legislation would give doctors legal powers to help patients kill themselves, to commit suicide.

We don’t claim to speak for all disabled people. Some of our members used to be in favour of changing the law.

Hands cupping and surrounding wooden figures of people

But we cannot see how safeguards will work well enough for us to feel confident that a change to the law will ensure disabled people are protected. This includes protection from coercion, from feeling a burden, from limited resources or from professionals subjectively deciding our lives are not worth living.

A review of how assisted suicide legislation is operating – in Oregon, Canada, Holland and Belgium – shows our fears are well-founded.

There are no organisations run by disabled people calling for the law to change.

Disabled people are living in difficult times. Cuts to social care and health services mean we don’t get the support that we need, and the pandemic has hit us harder than any other group. We can see the argument for a change in the law; but the current backdrop means now is not the time to support the Meacher bill.

We need help to live, not help to die. The law should remain as it is and protect the majority, rather than the few who might benefit from this bill.

The issue of ‘choice’

Freedom of choice has limits; such as where choice threatens the life or wellbeing of others. Legalising assisted suicide would pressure some of the most vulnerable people to end their lives. It would set a precedent for extending assisted suicide to other groups.

Signposts pointing in opposite directions one labelled individual the other Society

Society does all it can to prevent suicidal thoughts being enacted amongst the mentally ill and those who (temporarily) feel they cannot face the future.

Those seeking a change to the law say such ideals have no place when considering severely disabled and terminally ill people. If you can take your own life without assistance, society generally strives to protect you; but, if assistance to die is needed, they argue, it should be provided.

A fundamental shift in the relationship between doctors and patients.

Doctor holding a patient's hand.

The current blanket ban on assisted suicide provides absolute protection for disabled people. Medical staff cannot suggest an assisted suicide because it’s against the law. It makes the bond of trust between patients and doctors strong.

Legalising assisted suicide will irrevocably damage that relationship.

This debate is reinforcing negative perceptions of disability. It feeds into desires for a body beautiful and a perfect life untroubled by illness.

Guilt around being a burden on the family or society

Ill and disabled people may feel that they have a duty to die. Evidence from palliative care specialists shows most people who seek assisted suicide give ‘not wanting to be a burden’ as the main reason for seeking death.[1]

Wheelchair user at the foot of stairs while people go up leaving them behind.

Some 59% of those assisted in their suicides in Oregon in 2019 stated that being a ‘burden on family, friends or caregivers’ was one of their main reasons for requesting it.[2] Some 34% of those who were euthanised in Canada in 2019 cited ‘perceived burden on family, friends or caregivers’ as one of their main reasons.[3]

Other people will face pressure from relatives to seek help to end their lives. Such pressure might be subtle, but it will be there.

This bill raises deep concerns about how disabled people are viewed by society. Many people believe people they do not know would be better off dead because of their perceptions of illness and disability.

The role of good quality palliative and social care

Those who support this bill ignore the evidence from professional medical organisations that the prognosis of date of death is extremely difficult.[4]

There are no concrete rules to determine whether a person is terminally ill and in the last months of life, or whether they are ‘suffering unbearably’.

The choice of people nearing the end of life or who are suffering might be very different if they received the palliative and social care they should get. There is no right in Britain to palliative care.

Lots of words all jumbled up with Palliative Care standing out.

With modern medicine, the cause of much of the suffering is often not the illness itself – but unmet physical, mental or social care needs.

Nearly 14% of Canadians who requested legal medically assisted suicide in 2019 cited isolation and loneliness as a factor in their ‘choice’.[5]

The vast majority of doctors specialising in palliative and end of life care do not support a change in the current law[6]. We should listen to them.

The experience abroad: Evidence of the slippery slope

The idea that we would be embarking on a slippery slope is borne out by data and experiences from countries that have introduced so-called right-to-die legislation. Most laws abroad have been expanded and restrictions loosened.

The 2002 law in the Netherlands refers to ending ‘unbearable suffering’. However, the legalisation of euthanasia in the Netherlands “has contributed to a normalization of physician-assisted dying and… an expansion of its practice”.[7]

This expansion has involved acts of euthanasia that many would regard as abuses: the expansion of euthanasia from 12-year-old children to severely disabled new-born children[8];  and an expansion from voluntary euthanasia to non-voluntary euthanasia, particularly in cases of dementia where patients are incapable of giving consent[9] and chronic psychiatric patients, from 0 cases in 2009 to 60 cases in 2016[10].

Sign saying Danger Slippery slopes keep away.

Canada introduced assisted suicide legislation in December 2015. The Canadian Government now proposes that from March 2023 patients with mental illness alone and no other underlying issues can be given medical assistance to die.

Within six years the scope of the assisted suicide legislation in Canada has been amended twice. More people are now eligible and protections weakened.

A study in Belgium found that in only half the cases in Flanders were doctors assisting suicide reporting the death to a review committee as required by the law.[11] Around14% said they didn’t report a case either because they suspected the legal requirements had not been met, or they feared possible legal consequences.

Conclusion

Baroness Meacher’s bill addresses the needs of a small proportion of the population. And the cost is too high. The provisions of the bill, with their inadequate safeguards, open the door to dangers for disabled people which may literally prove fatal.

We don’t believe any parliamentarian will be able to put their hand on their heart and say ‘no disabled people will die because this bill is robust and fully protects everyone from any type of pressure or mistake’.

References

1 Hoffenberg R. Assisted dying. Clin Med 2006672–74. [PMC free article] [PubMed] [Google Scholar]

2 Oregon Health Authority Public Health Division, Center for Health Statistics Date written February 25, 2020

3 First Annual Report on MEDICAL ASSISTANCE IN DYING IN CANADA 2019

4 PMC Journal- A Systematic Review of Predictions of Survival in Palliative Care https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4999179/

[5] First Annual Report on Medical Assistance in Dying in Canada 2019

[6] BMA Survey on Physician-Assisted Dying 2020

[7] Koopman J and Boer, T, “Turning Points in the Conception and Regulation of Physician-Assisted Dying in the Netherlands”, American Journal of Medicine Vol 129, No 8, August 2016[7]

[8] https://www.proquest.com/openview/2f5f978f061e5f38e3bf34c2b4e06d50/1?pq-origsite=gscholar&cbl=47659

[9] BMC Medical Ethics https://bmcmedethics.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12910-019-0401-y

[10] BMC Psychiatry https://bmcpsychiatry.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12888-017-1369-0

[11] Reporting of euthanasia in medical practice in Flanders, Belgium: a cross-sectional analysis of reported and unreported casesBMJ 2010; 341 doihttps://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.c5174 (Published 05 October 2010)

Categories
Assisted dying assisted suicide Disability Meacher Bill

Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics

In a recent quote, DiD suggest that 88% of disabled people support assisted suicide. We asked for the data to analyse the reliability of the claims. Zeynab Al-Khero our researcher concluded the data set is small and has a number of other flaws.

The research data was based only based in Scotland and involved a total of 243 people who identified themselves as disabled. Without a clear definition of disability, DiD cannot claim the poll is the view of disabled people nationally. If we look at the term ‘disabled’ the study is based on only 87 people. It is estimated that Scotland has a million people who define themselves as disabled. The DiD survey could hardly be described as “statistically significant”.

It’s also worth noting that this was an online survey. Glasgow Disability Allowance’s COVID research showed that 60% of disabled people were experiencing digital exclusion. This means those who were able to complete the DiD online survey are not representative of the vast majority of disabled people who are disconnected from peers, services and supports.

Baroness Campbell of Surbiton- Founder NDYUK said, “We always knew this was not a true reflection about how disabled people feel about the legalisation of assisted suicide. The numbers in this survey aren’t robust enough to make general statements about what disabled people do or don’t want.

Not Dead Yet have over 2000 disabled supporters, and more join our campaign every week. I think this speaks for itself. Not one organisation of or for disabled people actively campaign for a change in the law. Why do you think this is?”

We remain extremely concerned that any change to the current legislation opens the door to new risks for disabled people, as demonstrated by the changes in the law in other jurisdictions around the world (e.g. Canada and the Netherlands.)

Disabled people want properly resourced help to live, not to die. Assisted dying legislation, as proposed by Baroness Meacher, is ‘paving legislation’ in other words paving the way for future widening of the criteria to people whose medical diagnosis and prognosis are not terminal. For example, disabled people with physical, sensory, or mental health and learning disabilities.

You can help fight this attempt to change the law on assisted suicide by contacting your MP. If you need our help to do this, contact us at admin@notdeadyetuk.com

 

 

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Assisted dying assisted suicide Meacher Bill

Evidence of a Slippery Slope?

Supporters of our campaign to resist a law change on assisted suicide have continually expressed real concerns about the concept of  “a slippery slope”. The idea that once assisted suicide is permitted for one group it isn’t long before it’s extended to include other groups and that this is a bad thing. Our opponents have argued that this is simply not true, that a slippery slope does not exist.

Let’s briefly examine what has been happening in Canada.

In December 2015 – the Quebec Province in Canada (a regional government) passed the Act Respecting End of Life Care, which permits Medical Aid In Dying (MAID).

June 2016 – The law was extended to other Provinces and Territories, making Quebec’s law legal across the whole of Canada. It prioritises mentally ill and vulnerable people and those who have a grievous or irremediable medical condition, including people with an incurable illness or disease, and disabled people.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Euthanasia_in_Canada

In March 2020 – the Canadian courts (nationwide) extended the law to include the following:

  • Removal of the requirement that death should be reasonably foreseeable
  • Only one independent witness to request for MAID
  • A personal or health care worker may be a witness
  • Removal of 10-day period for reflection
  • The waiver should be given in advance

On 17 March 2021 – the Canadian legislature expanded MAID to a broader group of people:

  • A person does not need to have a fatal or terminal condition to be eligible for MAID.
  • Mentally ill patients can give an advanced waiver to sign off for MAID before they are compromised by their condition.

https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/medical-assistance-dying.html

The numbers of people assisted to end their lives in Canada are consistently growing year on year:

https://bit.ly/3glUlmp

The Canadian Government now propose that in March 2023 it plans to give patients with mental illness alone and no other underlying issues the option for a MAID.

Within six years the scope of the assisted suicide legislation in Canada has been amended twice with further amendments planned. More people are now eligible, the death rate is increasing and the protections have been weakened we’d call that a “slippery slope”.

 

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Assisted dying assisted suicide Disability Meacher Bill

We need your help.

The Meacher Bill

We need to ensure that the Meacher Bill fails to attract the necessary support in Parliament. We need your help to contact and persuade Peers and MPs of the dangers this Bill poses to many disabled people.

Letter writing, social and broadcast media work and direct contact with MP’s and Peers are critical.

We have drafted a letter you could use as a template to contact your MP.  Please feel free to edit to suit your purposes.

MP Letter Template

BMA

The BMA is due to debate assisted suicide later this year. It is crucial that they stay neutral or, if possible, are persuaded to oppose a change in the law. We need you to engage with your GP’s and other medical practitioners to express your concerns.

This is why we need a strong campaign to defeat this latest attempt to legalise Assisted Suicide.

Peter Thomas, 47 from Birmingham says, “I’m fearful of others, including some medics, questioning why I haven’t opted for assisted suicide”.

Categories
Assisted dying assisted suicide Disability Meacher Bill

Now is Not the Time

Assisted suicide legislation is a threat to disabled people’s lives, independence and peace of mind.

We recognise that there is a range of views amongst disabled people as a whole on this issue, and we can see the argument for having a sensible, rational debate about assisted dying. But not now.

In every jurisdiction where a form of assisted suicide has been legalised, the numbers dying have increased over time. Once assisted suicide is law, society has endorsed it as an option, equal to that of life. Those who had never considered it will be told that it is an option. Their families, friends, health and social care professions will all know it as an option too.

It is hard enough already for those of us with terminal illnesses and disabilities to get the support services we need to live active, independent lives. The COVID pandemic has made that harder and bought into sharp focus the value society places on us. Many of us have lost health and social care support over the last year. And 6 out of 10 COVID related deaths have been disabled people.

For essential support to become merely the alternative option to assisted suicide terrifies us. That is why no organisation of terminally ill or disabled people has sought a change in the law.

We need help to live – not to die. That means investment in palliative care, pragmatic solutions to social care provision and continued financial support for our world-class NHS.

These are the issues our parliamentarians should be concentrating on, rather than the Pandora’s Box of assisted suicide which might help the few, but at the expense of the many.

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2021/05/26/government-should-helping-people-live-not-die-assisted-suicide/

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Assisted dying assisted suicide

Sunday Times to campaign for law change!

We understand that the Times and Sunday Times are supporting the latest attempt to change the law on assisted suicide.

They are backing a private member’s bill put forward by crossbench peer Baroness Meacher. The bill is scheduled to have its first reading later this week.

We would ask all of our supporters to raise their concerns by contacting the Editor of the Sunday Times.

Here is an extract from the newspaper article published on May the 23rd.

“Assisted dying is a delicate and sensitive issue. Some people are strongly in favour of it becoming legal in the UK, as it is already in a growing number of countries. Others feel strongly that it should not. Everybody, however, should agree that this is not an issue to be swept under the carpet indefinitely, and today The Sunday Times is launching a campaign to legalise assisted dying in this country.”

You can read more here https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/assisted-dying-bill-aims-to-stop-unbearable-suffering-bb966pt8n

 

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Assisted dying assisted suicide

BMA survey published in June 2020

Several of our supporters have mentioned their concerns about the recent RCGP poll which although it maintained its opposition to a change in the law on assisted dying the overall support was reduced.

A majority of GP’s voted to oppose any change in the law as against those supporting a change (47% to 41%) but the 47% had apparently dropped from 77% in 2013. Campaigners for assisted dying are capitalising on the fact that if you take account of the votes for a position of neutrality (11%), the proportion supporting the status quo is actually in the minority.

The RCGP has stated they will not have another poll for five years unless there are ‘significant developments’ on the issue.

The British Medical Association (BMA) are planning their own poll which they will report on at their conference in June later this year.

It is clear that we must take every opportunity to ensure that doctors understand our vigorous opposition to a change in the law on assisted dying.

  • Is your GP aware that you have serious concerns about a change in the law on assisted dying?
  • Have you discussed how vulnerable you feel?
  • Have you discussed the damage that could be caused to the patient/doctor relationship if assisted dying was legalised?

For more information about the recent RCGP poll follow these links: –

https://www.rcgp.org.uk/about-us/news/2020/february/royal-college-of-gps-remains-opposed-to-change-in-the-law-on-assisted-dying.aspx

https://www.bmj.com/content/368/bmj.m708.

 

 

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Assisted dying assisted suicide

Royal College of GP’s poll supports opposition to assisted dying.

This is the official statement issued by the Royal College of General Practitioners today regarding the poll recently undertaken to test the views of GP’s.

“The Royal College of General Practitioners will continue to oppose a change in the law on assisted dying, following consultation of its members. The decision was ratified by the RCGP’s governing Council today.

The member survey was conducted independently by Savanta ComRes. 6,674 members from across the UK responded to the online survey – 13.47% of those consulted*.

Members were asked whether RCGP should change its current position of opposing a change in the law on assisted dying:

  • 47% of respondents said that the RCGP should oppose a change in the law on assisted dying
  • 40% of respondents said the RCGP should support a change in the law on assisted dying, providing there is a regulatory framework and appropriate safeguarding processes in place
  • 11% of respondents said that the RCGP should have a neutral position and
  • 2% of respondents abstained from answering.

RCGP Council agreed today that the survey results did not support a change in the College’s existing position on assisted dying.

Under current laws in each of the four UK nations, assisted dying is illegal. The RCGP last reviewed its position on assisted dying in 2014 following a member consultation in 2013.

RCGP Council has decided that it will not review the College`s position on this issue for at least five years unless there are significant developments on the issue.

Professor Martin Marshall, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said: “As the UK’s largest medical Royal College it is important that we engage in debate and listen to what our members have to say on wide-ranging issues affecting GPs and their patients.

“Assisted dying is a controversial topic and this was reflected in the responses to our consultation. However, the highest proportion of respondents said that the College should continue to oppose a change in the law on assisted dying.

“This was the largest consultation on an issue of public policy that the College has conducted both in terms of response rate and volume of respondents. The survey results have been helpful in guiding the College Council as to what our position should be.

“The role of the College now is to ensure that patients receive the best possible palliative and end of life care, and to this end, we are working with Marie Curie and others to support this”.