Care Not Killing comments on the assisted suicide at the Dignitas clinic of disabled rugby player Daniel James.

Spokesperson, Dr Peter Saunders, said:

This is a desperately sad case of a promising young rugby player, rendered tetraplegic when a scrum collapsed in March 2007, who appears to have undergone assisted suicide at the Dignitas Clinic in Switzerland.

This case will prompt many to sit up and think. We are witnessing a very dangerous slippery slope: first we saw people with severe neurological diseases like motor neurone disease travelling to the Dignitas Clinic; next, people with progressive but usually non-fatal chronic illnesses like multiple sclerosis started making the journey; now it's a severely disabled man in his early twenties.

When an able-bodied young person commits or attempts to commit suicide, we see it as a cry for help and ask ourselveswhat could have prompted him or her to make such a radical decision. Our attitude should be no different when it comes to people with disability.

The vast majority of disabled young people do not want to end their lives, even those - unlike this young man - whose spinal cord damage has caused them to be confined to ventilators. It remains a fact that requests for assisted suicide are extremely rare if physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual needs are properly met.

It is not illegal to commit suicide but assisting suicide is a crime because a law allowing it would be so easily open to abuse. A recent report in the British Medical Journal showed that one in four people undergoing assisted suicide in the American state of Oregon (where it has been legal for ten years) have undiagnosed depression and most certainly would not have chosen such a desperate course of action had they been properly treated. No amount of safeguards in assisted suicide legislation can prevent abuse.

This tragic case underlines two important principles. First, when assisted suicide is made legal, no safeguards will suffice to curb abuse and the slippery slope. It is so easy for vulnerable people to feel under pressure to request early death because they perceive themselves as emotional or financial burdens on others. Second, we need to ensure that there is better access to good care for disabled people.