a public safety issue

Apparently Lord Joffe is making renewed attempts to have assisted suicide legalised (and see a couple of posts ago for similar concerns in the Scottish parliament).

There are of course serious considerations deriving from a commitment to biblical ethics which make it impossible to legalise assisted suicide – but it would be wrong to think that opposition to assisted suicide can only come from a religious perspective.

This is made clear in a recent letter in the Times by Lord Carlile of Berriew:

“Lord Joffe’s Assisted Dying Bill was debated to its core and roundly defeated in the House of Lords in May 2006. Few of the speakers founded their objections on religion. The real concern was, and remains, public safety — the potential for collateral harm to the great majority of terminally ill people from giving a few individuals a “right” to prescription suicide pills. The so-called safeguards in Lord Joffe’s Bill were paper thin.

Lord Joffe claims that his Bill did not seek to encourage terminally ill people to ask for assistance with suicide but provided “an additional end-of-life option”. But laws aren’t like precision-guided missiles. Once a statute, they can quickly be used to encourage acts they were designed to enable and control. It’s easy enough to draft safeguards in the comfort of Westminster, but laws have to be real-world-proofed.
Lord Joffe says his opponents do not want a debate, yet criticises us for having held a full one. In the past five years there have been three debates, and a select committee. What has been in short supply is evidence that this significant change to our laws is safe. Already, in advance of another assisted dying Bill, we are hearing suggestions that people with dementia should consider whether they are a burden on their families. The slippery slope is no fiction: it is already well polished.
This is not about religion or autonomy or medicine: it is about public safety, legal certainty and the protection by the law of the vulnerable. It behoves Parliament to think very carefully once again, rather than be stampeded by highly emotional campaigns mounted by single-issue pressure groups.”

That’s only an excerpt; read the whole thing here.

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One thought on “a public safety issue

  1. Here’s a similar view expressed in the Guardian by Peter Beresford (professor of social policy at Brunel University).

    End-of-life care, he says, “continues to be grossly underfunded, patchy and unreliable. Judging from the evidence, few of us would want to end our days reliant on the quality of palliative care common in nursing homes and mainstream NHS hospitals. Yet the high-quality, holistic and sensitive services pioneered by the hospice movement are still often only available for some conditions, in some areas and for some ethnic groups. But what pressure will there be for improvement; for more beds, more Macmillan nurses, more social workers, more rapid response units, more district nurses, if the new choice of assisted dying is on offer?”

    Making assisted dying an available option, he says, will have far-reaching consequences – in particular, it will undermine the existing motivation for developing good methods of pain control, finding treatments for presently incurable medical conditions, dealing with people seriously injured in traffic accidents, etc.

    Re disabilities and long-term deteriorating conditions, he points out that although it’s already difficult enough for people/families to get adequate support, we do know that good support does transform things. “What’s the chance of things getting better once euthanasia is on the menu?” he asks.

    The full article:
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/joepublic/2008/nov/06/assisted-suicide-nhs-care

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