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Dear Luxembourg

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13th December 2008

Care Not Killing writes an open letter to the people of Luxembourg...

To the Editor of the Luxembourg Wort

Dear Sir

The Care Not Killing Alliance is a consortium of almost 50 human rights groups, professional organisations and faith groups in the United Kingdom, which are concerned to promote the spread of good palliative care and to oppose the legalisation of euthanasia. Whilst we express no view on the constitutional difficulties posed by your country's proposed euthanasia law we share Grand Duke Henri's concerns about the effects of the proposed change in the law and understand why, in good conscience, he feels that he cannot support it.

In the UK, too, there is continued pressure for a change in the law to allow what is being euphemistically called 'assisted dying'. These pressures have been successfully resisted to date by concerted action on the part of concerned people, much of it via Care Not Killing, to explain to the public at large and to our legislators the very real dangers which a change in the law poses for vulnerable people. Our resistance has also been greatly helped by the opposition which all the Medical Royal Colleges and the British Medical Association have declared to the legalisation of 'assisted dying'.

Legalising euthanasia is usually presented by its proponents as a matter of 'choice' and 'autonomy': what is often not appreciated is that giving such choices to a minority of determined and self-reliant people can endanger the position of the great majority of terminally ill patients, disabled people, the elderly and those with chronic illnesses, many of whom experience, at various points, internalised pressures to end their lives so as not to be a burden on their families. Many others suffer from transient bouts of depression.

In this regard, the latest evidence from the US State of Oregon, where assisted suicide has been legal for ten years, is far from reassuring: recent research has shown that one in six of those who took their own lives in recent years with the help of lethal but legal drugs from their doctors were suffering from treatable but undiagnosed depression. Similarly, we have noted with concern that existing euthanasia laws in both The Netherlands and Belgium are being liberally interpreted and progressively extended.

For many people, perhaps including Grand Duke Henri, euthanasia is primarily a question of morality and conscience. But, as a broad coalition, including many with no religious faith, we urge those who have no conscientious objection to euthanasia to consider the public safety implications of a change in your law, some of which we have mentioned above. We wish your Parliament wise counsel in taking this issue forward.

Yours sincerely

Dr Peter Saunders
Care Not Killing Alliance

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