Assisted dying: most British politicians and some religious and financial interests are not respecting public opinion which is overwhelmingly in favour
On this site last year a Pretoria judge’s approval of the right to die with dignity was recorded.
Breaching the evangelical Christian consensus, former archbishop, Lord Carey, and Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu have declared themselves to be in favour of assisted dying for the terminally ill and those in a situation of intractable, unbearable suffering.
Journalist Katharine Whitehorn visited Oregon in 2008, one of the places in which assisted dying is legal – some American states, Switzerland, Denmark, Holland and Belgium. She points out that far from the sad, the poor and the unwanted being ‘shuffled off into the hereafter’, it is mostly the strong-minded and competent who choose assisted dying, for more than one reason:
- intractable pain,
- increasing disability,
- collapse of normal bodily functions, or
- loss of dignity as others clean and feed them.
Some readers might want to see the video of the Cambridge Union Society’s debate in January 2014. The proposition was ‘This House Would Legalise ‘Assisted Dying’. The speakers in favour of freedom of choice in “last matters” won the debate by a clear 207 to 67 votes (with 54 abstaining). When will UK politicians listen?
It was good to read that one of several good policies presented by the new Canadian premier, Justin Trudeau, is support for assisted dying:
“The high court struck down the prohibition on doctor-assisted dying last February and gave the federal government a year to come up with a new law recognizing the right of clearly consenting adults who are enduring intolerable physical or mental suffering to seek medical help in ending their lives”.
Quebec already has its own law, which came into effect Dec. 10. Since then, one patient in Quebec City’s university health-care network has received a doctor-assisted death.
During the last 14 years, over 300 Britons have travelled to Dignitas in Switzerland for a professional, medically supported and accompanied suicide.
These people would rather have had the choice of a self-determined end of suffering and life at home.
The law in the UK needs to change. Dignitas supports the campaign and new court case to change the law in England & Wales. Though public opinion is overwhelmingly in favour (see Panorama poll below) as past votes in the Lords and the Commons have shown, a majority of politicians and some religious and financial interests are not respecting public opinion.
Solicitor and Partner Saimo Chahal, of London Law firm Bindmans, alerts readers to the fact that there is a legal campaign to change the law in England & Wales, started by Elaine Spector and two further individuals, who wish to remain anonymous – V and J.
Saimo Chahal previously acted for Debbie Purdy, Tony and Jane Nicklinson and Paul Lamb.
Many will echo the wish of the Dignitas team: “May we all live to see freedom of choice and human dignity in life and at life’s end in England & Wales and around the world”.
If you are interested in joining the legal campaign please will you email Saimo Chahal on firstname.lastname@example.org.
One of the ‘GenerationNext’ with great potential – Coventry University student Kate Green – has been doing some research for a presentation on how we should have right to end our own lives through assisted suicide when suffering with a degenerative disease.
One finding we repeat: Dignitas’ stated aim is that no one should be forced to travel abroad in order to have the simple basic human right of a peaceful death. Read more here.
When Silvan Luley of Dignitas read about multiple sclerosis sufferer Carol Hutchins, who threw herself into a canal and drowned because she could not afford to travel to the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland to end her life, he wrote to PCU: “What a sad story! What a disgrace for the UK legal system and politicians!”
Misleading media coverage
He pointed out that the “Mail Online” – and some other papers – call Dignitas a “clinic” whereas in fact it is a small help-to-live and right-to-die non-profit NGO.
Such reporting misleads the public as it evokes ideas of a hospital or hospice with wards, doctors and nurses and has led to people actually turning up without prior notice because they believed the nonsense of the “Dignitas euthanasia clinic” – some of them in quite deplorable state of health. They have had to be sent back home right away, as there is a preparation procedure to follow which takes some time – distressing for them and for Dignitas.
Another mistake by the Mail Online was to show a picture of 5-storey building stating under the picture: “Controversial: The Dignitas clinic in Switzerland” but that building does not belong to Dignitas.
The Dignitas building
Better media coverage
Here is a link to Terry Pratchett’s BBC documentary – a good programme in which many were able to see part of the doctor’s consultations, the procedure followed and the Dignitas building, though of course it did not show much of the lengthy preparation which includes registering as a member, obtaining medical reports and sending a formal request to be assessed.
Mr Luley comments:” We have already written to numerous newspapers about this problem but they mostly seem to be too dumb to take responsibility for the rubbish that they print….”. He concludes:
Still, the story is heartbreaking and it puts its finger on a severe problem: the problem that people who want to have a dignified self-determined end in life need to travel abroad. No one should be forced to travel abroad in order to have the simple basic human right of a peaceful death! Everyone should have this right at his/her very home, to pass away peacefully in their own bed, surrounded by loved ones.
NOTE: Dignitas’ submission to Lord Falconer’s Commission on Assisted Dying is well worth reading as it presents their approach and philosophy.