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Assisted living, not assisted dying

more: Personal opinion, Opinion, Personal opinion/Opinion, Legislation, Personal opinion/Legislation

23rd May 2013

Human rights, equalities and disability rights expert Neil Crowther dissects the most prominent reasons given for legal change.

Assisted living, not dying

Lord Falconer's bill for the terminally ill, the Nicklinson et al appeal concerning those with disabilities and Sir Terry Pratchett's much publicised crusade in light of his Alzheimer's are all "quite different scenarios", writes Neil Crowther - yet they are all too often conflated. His challenging article, 'Why there should be no right to assisted dying without the right to assisted living', confronts the three key beliefs which underlie much of the support for a change in the law to allow euthanasia and assisted suicide:

  • First a fundamental belief in self-determination - that is it an individual's right to choose the timing and manner of their own death.
  • Second, that certain circumstances prevent the exercise of self-determination in these matters, namely being mentally or physically incapacitated by illness or injury thus justifying assistance from a third party in realising the will and preferences of individuals who wish to end their own lives.
  • And thirdly that having a serious health condition or impairment provides a justifiable cause for the State to regard another's involvement in a death such as a physician or a relative - where that involvement can be shown to have been at the behest of the individual concerned - not as murder or manslaughter but as either suicide or 'mercy killing'.

He ultimately urges cautions regarding the "propensity of families and wider society, consciously or otherwise, to encourage or become complicit in the decision of people to end their lives... [and the] lessons from history that we need to be mindful of, not least the impact of the social and economic climate."

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