Compassion or coercion?

Despite MPs having voted overwhelmingly to reject measures that would legalise assisted dying in 2015, and a similar private members bill proposed by Baroness Meacher failing in 2021, due to mass opposition from her fellow Peers (https://righttolife.org.uk/news/meacher-assisted-suicide-bill-debate), activists are once again pushing for the law to be changed – to allow doctors, as they say, to ‘help’ terminally ill patients end their lives.

Ahead of the pending debate, MPs on the Health and Social Care Committee in Parliament are now conducting an inquiry, asking for the views of the general public into assisted dying/assisted suicide, to help shape their recommendations to Government.

Regardless of what up to now has been clear and settled opposition to any such proposal, the battle shows every indication of being a debate that will not go away until activists get what they want.  Like water dripping relentlessly on a stone, after each defeat the campaigners come back, and their demands are always the same.

At one level, of course, one can have sympathy.  After all, the reality of unbearable suffering, whether experienced personally or witnessed, is both terrible and heart-breaking.   But how do we determine what is ‘unbearable’, and at what cost do we decide to end someone’s life?   How do we know we won’t cause more harm than good?

Activists assure us that this is scare-mongering, and that assisted dying works well and is perfectly safe.  It’s only for those in the last 6 months of life and facing unbearable pain, they say. But the facts don’t seem to support this.  In jurisdictions where the practice is legal, for example, there’s already clear evidence that the scope is being extended to include those suffering from long-term disability and psychiatric disorder – and even now children (e.g. Belgium and the Netherlands https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-54538288;https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9251055/ ).

Similarly, one has to query the word ‘safe’.   According to data compiled by Oregon, where assisted dying has been legal since 1997, the time between ingestion of the drugs and death might commonly be anywhere between one to six hours, with some patients surviving as long as 24 hours – while the report shows too that some patients regain consciousness during this time, so that they spend their last hours of life choking, as they fight for breath (https://www.oregon.gov/oha/PH/PROVIDERPARTNERRESOURCES/EVALUATIONRESEARCH/DEATHWITHDIGNITYACT/Documents/year24.pdf).

And in these cash strapped days, where the NHS is struggling for survival, who’s to say that assisted dying won’t become the preferred course of treatment for under-staffed and under-resourced health trusts?  There are, after all, already reports from the US of health insurers refusing to fund costly medical treatments, offering instead the far cheaper option of assisted suicide!

The Bible says that all of life is the gift of God, made in His own image, and that, as such, we are to love and respect one another.  Further, it expressly prohibits the taking of innocent life (Exodus 20:13), which is classed as murder and which places the perpetrator under a curse.  So-called ‘mercy killing’, is likewise condemned (see 2 Samuel 1:1-16, the only recorded story in the Bible of killing motivated by compassion, and which results in the perpetrator himself being put to death).

In a recent opinion piece in The Times, columnist Matthew Parris condemned religious people for using what he called scientific arguments against assisted dying, while keeping silent about their faith (https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/its-surely-harder-to-drive-a-coach-than-a-train-vcvp0q7bg).  He implied that such tactics were deliberately underhand and dishonest.  It is perhaps worth pointing out that in the current climate many dismiss out of hand anything said by people admitting to faith, which is one reason for the apparent silence on belief.   But let us be absolutely clear.  At VfJUK, we believe that it is for God, and God alone, to decide when life begins and when it should end.   
 
That said, and irrespective of faith, there are important scientific and cultural facts that need to be known and weighed – and of which many remain unaware.  Allowing a medical right to kill can only encourage assessment of the value of life worth preserving.   So those not actively contributing will become expendable and, without doubt, the vulnerable – including the elderly, disabled, those suffering from psychiatric disorder, and the generally infirm – will increasingly be viewed as a burden.  It will become their moral duty to die … and the damage done to society will be incalculable.
 
It is vital this measure be resisted and that you make your voice heard.  The inquiry by the Health and Social Care Committee closes on 20 January.   Please respond today.

Read the questionnaire here: https://www.smartsurvey.co.uk/s/M66AML/ 

For more detailed information and guidance on how to respond, please read our briefing here: https://vfjuk.org/about/consultative-briefings/

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