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Call for assisted suicide law review criticised

more: Press Releases, Legislation, Press Releases/Legislation

10th January 2020

'Evidence from around the world shows that removing these protections puts vulnerable people at risk of abuse and of coming under pressure, real or perceived, to end their lives prematurely.'

Responding to the news that Lucy Allan MP is calling for a review by the Ministry of Justice of the Suicide Act and murder legislation, Dr Gordon Macdonald, Chief Executive of Care Not Killing, commented:

'The inquiry being called for is neither necessary nor wanted. The issue of assisted suicide and euthanasia has been considered more than a dozen times in UK Parliaments since 2003 and overwhelmingly rejected by MPs as recently as 2015. While the courts and prosecutors have examined this issue on more than 20 occasions over the same period.

'On every occasion, MPs, Peers, MSPs and judges have rejected ripping up long held universal protections, that are enshrined in statute that ensure the law treats all people equally and protects the vulnerable.

'This is important as evidence from around the world shows that removing these protections puts vulnerable people at risk of abuse and of coming under pressure, real or perceived, to end their lives prematurely.

'As we saw last summer, with the publication of a major US report from the National Council on Disability, which found the laws in the handful of states that allow assisted suicide were ineffective and oversight of abuse and mistakes was absent. This put a sword to the lie that systems in places like Oregon and Washington are safe and a good model for the UK.

'Of course, it's not just the US that acts as a warning against these changes. In 2016, Canada changed their law to allow terminally ill people to request assisted suicide and euthanasia. In just three years the numbers of those dying in this way has exploded. Indeed, a pro-assisted suicide Canadian academic reported a four-fold increase between 2016 and 2018, from 1,010 - 4235. Speaking to British politicians recently, one Canadian euthanasia practitioner estimated that around 13,000 people have been euthanised in Canada in just 3 and a half years.

'There are other problems too. In September, the Quebec Superior Court struck down the requirement that a person be terminally ill before they qualify for euthanasia in Canada.

'While in July a depressed, but otherwise healthy 61-year-old man, was euthanised in the province of British Columbia. Alan Nichols, a former school caretaker, who had struggled with depression for many years was admitted to Chilliwack General Hospital. Despite not being terminally ill, he received a lethal injection.

'Worryingly Alan's case is not isolated. There are a growing number of reports that terminally ill patients and those with chronic conditions are being denied care, but offered the drugs to kill themselves. In one such case, Roger Foley from Ontario who suffers from a neurological disease, recorded hospital staff offering him a 'medically assisted death', despite his repeated statements that he did not want to die and wanted to return to his home.

'No wonder not a single doctors group or major disability rights organisation in the UK supports changing the law, including the British Medical Association, the Royal College of General Practitioners, the Royal College of Physicians, the British Geriatric Society and the Association for Palliative Medicine.

'The current laws prohibiting assisted suicide and euthanasia provide a safeguard against abuse and exploitation and do not need changing. Rather we should consider how to ensure that everyone has access to the very best palliative care, as according to Marie Curie around one in four cancer patients who need palliative care do not receive the care they require.'


NB: a comparable review failed to ind favour in summer 2019.

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