Friday, 11 September 2015

Assisted Dying Bill Rejected

MP's in Parliament have vetoed the latest attempt by campaigners to make it legal for doctors to end somebody's life with their permission if they are terminally ill or grossly infirm without any hope of recovery. The vote was decisively against the bill. I know many people at the British Constitution Group and UK Column who have been warning that legalizing euthanasia could be abused by those who want to depopulate the world and rid it of its "useless eaters". Elderly and disabled people might have subtle moral pressure put on them not to be a "burden" which might influence their decision. These sceptics have a valid point, but I don't think it's as black and white as that. The news article below contains video interviews showing both sides of the argument. One is with a man who is dying of a rare form of motor neurone disease; he vehemently opposes the bill for the reasons I state above. Another is of the wife and children of a man who chose to go to the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland and commit legal suicide there because he had come down with spinal cancer. He was a keep-fit enthusiast and couldn't bear the thought of spending the last few months of his life in a wheelchair, see: As I explain in the background articles below, Euthanasia, a Greek word that literally means "a good death", is killing somebody for the purposes of relieving their pain and/or misery. It's an everyday practice in veterinary medicine for dealing with badly ill animals; but it is an extremely controversial topic when it comes to humans. The medical profession is divided on it, as are politicians and ethical philosophers of medicine. This is why it's legal in some countries and not in others. There has been a long campaign by various pressure groups and individuals to bring in the right to die in the United Kingdom, including the British Humanist Association, the actor Dirk Bogarde and the author Terry Pratchett. They've been opposed by the church and other religious groups, but also some geriatric and palliative care organizations. Despite the church being against euthanasia, the former Archbishop of Canterbury... and son of a hospital porter, Sir George Carey, has publicly backed the bill, see background links below. I'm in favour of the right to die under certain circumstances. The tide is definitely turning I feel. I know that mercy killings go on anyway; I have served alongside doctors who have dispatched hospital patients secretly, with the individual's and/or relatives' permission of course, when they know they will be able to get away with it. If these doctors were caught, they might face a charge of murder. It could actually take a test case like that to make any further progress in the law. Another concern for people opposed to the right to die is that prognoses can change; in certain circumstances this could be a medical breakthrough, as in the Darek Fidyka case, see background links below. I share those concerns, but still think it doesn't justify forcing somebody against their will to carry on living in what they experience as humiliation and agony because somebody might find a cure for their illness at some point in the future. This was the first time Parliament has voted on the right to die for almost twenty years. The wheels of legislation turn slowly and the pro-euthanasia protesters will have to go home disappointed, and stay that way for some time; but another opportunity will arrive, one day soon.

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