A new Bill proposal could change the present situation in the UK where assisting a suicide is a criminal offence punishable by up to 14 years in prison. The Bill proposed is to be voted on in the near future and would have two doctors needed to sign off the fatal doses. Lord Falconer has brought forward the Bill and assures the disability community that there should be no fear – “We have taken on board the strong concerns expressed by many disabled people and do not consider that it would be acceptable to society at this point in time to recommend that a non-terminally ill person with significant physical impairments should be made eligible under any future legislation to request assistance in ending his or her life.” Several attempts have been made to change legislation against assisted suicide but have failed. Both Prime Minister Cameron and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg have said they personally oppose such a change as people could feel “unfairly pressurised” into ending their lives if laws on assisted dying are relaxed. (‘Assisted dying’ is defined as voluntary euthanasia and/or assisted suicide by Falconer’s report in 2012.)
Jane Campbell who is a member of the House of Lords in the UK and a long time advocate for Independent Living speaks out against the new legislation allowing Euthanasia She feels she is already on the list! See the article in the Telegraph:
Jane herself with experience of pneumonia knows how doctors in the intensive care unit did not want to give her proper care. Cited from the web page of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition: A successful, severely disabled woman, now in the British House of Lords, had life-threatening pneumonia. Jane’s doctors told her they would not ventilate her. When she said: ‘But that means I’ll die’, the doctors went away upset. Her husband fought for her to get the same treatment as anyone else. But she still stayed awake for three nights and days, in an intensive care unit, frightened that if she fell asleep she would never wake up again.
Arguments against assisted suicide or euthanasia are:
Death is not ever a treatment.
Euthanasia is the end of medicine – where doctors say ‘we can do no more – we have no more treatments left’.
Just because one person wants to die it never follows that everyone like them will want to die – making a law for the tiny proportion of people who say ‘I want to die’ is disproportionately dangerous to the safety of those who do not want to die.
Most disabled people do not want to be pressured into premature death
Pain is not the main reason for wanting to die. In fact, it is the main reason in only 2-5% of cases where pain is very difficult to alleviate – even in those cases, palliative medicine has grown in the last 20 years to do more and more for those unfortunate enough to need such pain-relief.
Feeling oneself to be ‘a burden’ on others (family, society) is the biggest reason.
People who are not terminally ill are being routinely euthanized in Holland and Belgium just 10-12 years after their laws were passed. In Belgium a transsexual whose operations had been botched; deaf twins who were becoming blind; a woman with anorexia whose psychiatrist sexually abused her; a woman who was declared by her own doctor to be depressed and was being treated with drugs which can cause suicidal ideation. In Holland 42 psychiatric patients were euthanized last year, some who were just ‘tired of living’, some who had been refused under existing Dutch law and practice but went to a special end-of-life clinic where they died anyway. Even one of the Dutch psychiatrists who is a strong supporter says that the Dutch law is ‘derailed now’.
Once a law is introduced it will lead to neglect, misuse and abuse – in Belgium 47% of all euthanasia deaths are not reported, in Holland around 22-25% are not reported – illegal; in Belgium people with dementia are being euthanized – how can they give considered consent? Also in Belgium nurses are carrying out euthanasia; illegal. And the leading euthanasia doctor is also the president of the commission which is supposed to check on euthanasia deaths – this commission has never investigated one of those deaths by euthanasia.
One leading Belgian government adviser in a public debate (November 2013) argued that ‘of course a man with no arms and no legs’ would want to die and even though I was sitting in front of him, a wheelchair user of forty years+, he shouted at a member of the audience ‘You just wait until you are paralysed!’. There simply are dangerous people who do not want disabled people around – who believe ‘a disabled life is not worth living’.
ENIL finds the situation threatening where England, Scotland and Quebec are considering adopting assisted suicide legislation.
ENIL was unsuccessful in its work against the changes to the Belgian euthanasia law to extend it to children of any age to decide on suicide but hopes to make a difference in this battle.
Recent successes to defeat the introduction of such laws in New Hampshire, Connecticut and Massachusetts show just how disabled people can argue consistently and cogently to point out the dangers of legislating for assisted suicide/euthanasia.
ENIL challenges its members and supporters to take an active role by contacting Members of the House of Lords with the message that the bill should not be passed. And to challenge the laws in Holland and Belgium by contacting parliamentarians in those countries and calling for the suspension of their practices and euthanasia laws until full and honest reviews can be conducted.
Debbie Jolly an ENIL board member says: Key arguments put forward by pro euthanasia groups fall in 3 main areas: choice, end of pain and suffering, and, there are safeguards are in place to protect you- there is no ‘slippery slope’. Many disabled people, myself included, would challenge all three. In the UK, specifically in England and Scotland we’re back on the merry-go-round where a euthanasia bill is to be put before parliament, yet again, after being debated and rejected a number of times. They’re calling it assisted suicide rather than euthanasia. What’s different this time is a few disabled people have been recruited as campaign leads and spokes people to the ‘for lobby’ for euthanasia- the suggestion here is that if these disabled people are OK with it –what are you afraid of?
Another thing that’s different about this time is that disabled people are facing the biggest cuts to support and independence we’ve seen in our life-times. This is coupled with a media campaign that implies many disabled people are claiming support fraudulently, despite the fact that error in the system is a mere 0.07%. As part of this we have also seen an increase in hate crimes against disabled people. Disabled people are once more made to feel burdens on families and/or on the state. At the same time we are seeing our national health service decimated through privatisation. However, this is something that is happening across Europe and elsewhere under the label of austerity cuts. These are dark days, some have said that we are facing attacks similar to the early days of the Nazi attacks in which disabled people were considered as ‘life unworthy of life’, but they may not know that in the 1930s the British Government also set up camps for us too as we were considered ‘life unworthy of life’ in our country-history does repeat itself.
ENIL encourages all UK members and supportive members across Europe to contact English and Scottish politicians to stop these bills from being passed!
Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide Links: