Callous lack of concern for vulnerable in assisted suicide debate

5 July 2019

SPUC has slammed the shocking lack of concern towards vulnerable people shown by MPs during a debate on assisted suicide.

Nick Boles MP (Independent Progressive Conservative, Grantham and Stamford), introduced the debate on the functioning of the existing law relating to assisted dying. However, his and other speeches made it clear that their goal was to change the law.

Several MPs, including Liz McInnes and Lyn Brown, spoke passionately about how assisted suicide laws could lead to vulnerable people seeing it as a treatment option, so as not to be a burden to others. Ms McInnes relayed the views of disability campaigners that a law change would lead to value judgments being made about people’s lives. Jim Shannon summed it up well when he said that the ‘right to die’ for the eloquent and well off would become a duty to die for the poor and vulnerable.

 However, most of the contributors to the debate, who spoke in favour of assisted suicide, dismissed these concerns. Crispin Blunt MP even brought up Lyn Brown’s moving intervention about how her mother when she was dying would have felt pressure to choose assisted suicide, asking her why she would deny her mother the choice.

Many other MPs simply dismissed the concerns of disability rights campaigners, claiming it was possible to ensure there were sufficient safeguards.

John Deighan, Deputy CEO of SPUC, said: “It must be remembered that the last time assisted dying was debated in Parliament, in 2015, it was soundly defeated. There were good reasons for this. The current law protects every citizen, especially the elderly, sick and disabled. Offering people the choice to end their lives creates unacceptable pressure for them to choose death. This can be seen in jurisdictions where it is legal – for example, in Washington State, 56% of people who were killed by assisted dying said a reason behind it was being a burden on family, friends and caregivers.”

Mr Deighan went on: “If anything, the evidence of the dangers of assisted suicide and euthanasia has mounted since 2015. There have been truly horrific cases from Belgium and the Netherlands of people being euthanised against their will, people being “helped” to die who are not dying but suffer from mental illnesses, and the law being extended to children. If there was any doubt before, it is now abundantly clear that no safeguards are sufficient to protect people from the consequences of legal killing.

"Nearly every MP who spoke in favour of assisted suicide said that any opposition was due to religion. Caring for the vulnerable is certainly something that motivates most religious people, but it certainly isn’t limited to them. It was therefore shocking to hear so many MPs dismiss the very valid concerns about the kind of pressures the sick and elderly would be put under if they got their way.

“We must work to enhance life for sick, disabled and elderly people, not pass a law which offers them death as a solution to their problems,” he concluded.