Thousands of protesters will descend on Parliament today (Friday May 12) to voice their opposition to Lord Joffe's Bill to legalise doctor-assisted suicide in the United Kingdom.

Their leaders will present to 10 Downing Street a petition signed by 102,363 people in just four weeks demanding an end to such attempts to change the law.

On the day of a critical vote in the House of Lords, they will warn that the so-called assisted dying Bill is a slippery slope to full-blown euthanasia for old, depressed and seriously ill patients.

Campaigners against the Bill fear that it would create scope for abuse – such as the killing of disabled babies and the sanctioning of involuntary euthanasia, both of which have happened in Holland where euthanasia has been legally sanctioned for 20 years.

Care Not Killing, which represents more than 30 charities and health care groups, is warning that the Joffe Bill would put the old and the sick under intolerable pressure to end their lives, not least because of severe pressures on health and long-term care services.

Care Not Killing campaign director Dr Peter Saunders said: “We believe that this is a very bad Bill and one that would create great problems for old and sick patients and the medical and nursing professions. Over the past few days as the public has become aware of the issues at stake, people have been signing our petition opposing the Bill at the rate of 10,000 a day. 102,363 people have signed the petition we presented to Downing Street today.

“Against this background of popular dissent, we believe it is right that the House of Lords should pass judgement by holding a vote at second reading and halting moves to legalise euthanasia in the UK. It is time to take a stand against this grossly misguided measure.”

The Care Not Killing campaign will culminate in the launch today in the House of Lords of a new group Not Dead Yet UK dedicated to helping disabled people resist the Joffe Bill. The launch will be followed by a rally of disabled people and other protesters in Parliament Square.

Jane Campbell, covenor of Not Dead Yet UK, said: "”We oppose Lord Joffe's Assisted Dying for the Terminally Ill Bill because it is damaging and dangerous to terminally ill and disabled people.

“By singling us out for legalised killing it feeds the myth that our lives are not worth living. If assisted dying is legalised it will create pressure, particularly on those who are newly disabled, to end their lives.

She continued, “If they really want to help us, Lord Joffe and other people of influence, should turn their attention to campaigning for proper health and social care support, so we can live our lives with dignity."

Care Not Killing also pointed to an opinion poll from CommunicateResearch published this week showing that two people in three are worried that the Bill will put old and vulnerable people at risk and make it harder to detect rogue doctors such as Manchester GP Harold Shipman.

A series of surveys of eminent medical bodies, such as the Royal College of Physicians, the Royal College of General Practitioners, the Association for Palliative Medicine and the British Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons have all produced overwhelming majorities of doctors against the Bill.

Care Not Killing also rejected claims by Lord Joffe that opponents of the Bill have broken an undertaking not to push the matter to a vote in the House of Lords today.

A Care Not Killing spokesman said: “We have checked this suggestion with the House of Lords authorities and have been told it is incorrect. Provided that notice has been given it is perfectly proper and with precedent for a vote to take place at second reading.

“If the Bill is given an unopposed second reading, it will be taken as approval of the principle of the Bill. This would be an affront to democracy given the strong opposition across the country, disabled rights groups and the medical profession to this measure.”

NOTES TO EDITORS:

CNK PROGRAMME FOR FRIDAY MAY 12

10.00 AM LAUNCH OF NOT DEAD YET UK CAMPAIGN IN COMMITTEE ROOM 4 and TV Interview Room, HOUSE OF LORDS

11.45 AM APPROX: CNK PETITION AGAINST JOFFE BILL DELIVERED TO 10 DOWNING STREET

12 NOON; RALLY IN PARLIAMENT SQUARE – UNTIL 2 PM

Speakers include doctors, church leaders, disabled rights campaigners, politicians.

See also:

Press release from Not Dead Yet UK