Latest assisted suicide bill offers no better safeguards

18 June 2021

Communications Manager Paul Huxley comments on why a new law on assisted suicide is not progress.

Over recent weeks, pro-assisted suicide campaigners have been running a determined campaign to support a new bill from Baroness Meacher to legalise assisted suicide.

Baroness Meacher’s Assisted Dying Bill is intended to legalise assisted dying for terminally ill, mentally competent adults in their final six months of life.

‘But judges will have to sign these off…’

Baroness Meacher highlighted Oregon as a positive example of how an assisted suicide law could work. In 2020, 370 people in Oregon received assisted suicide prescriptions[1] – a number that doesn’t seem outrageous or scary when we’re used to coronavirus death tolls in the thousands.

But Oregon’s population is a shade over 4 million. The United Kingdom has over 66 million people – over 15 times as many. Those 370 assisted suicide prescriptions in Oregon would number 5,800 with a population the size of the United Kingdom.

Under Baroness Meacher’s law, two independent doctors and a High Court judge would have to assess each one of these cases. 5,800 extra cases every year for High Court judges – and more if we believe some additional requests might be rejected. Do we really think there’s going to be serious scrutiny of all these cases? That the judges will thoroughly investigate the circumstances?

The courts are already full of judges that routinely sentence people like ‘RS’ to death, deeming it in their best interest. They accept the narrative given to them initially by hospitals and disallow evidence from other medical experts.

The inclusion of a High Court judge signoff in the proposals is an attempt by the assisted suicide lobbyists to make the bill safer, to get it through parliament, when its safeguards are no better than any of their previous failed attempts.

Is Oregon really an example?

Baroness Meacher claims that there have been no cases of abuse in Oregon and that the law has not been extended beyond terminally ill adults. But Care not Killing notes that over half (53%) of cases cited a fear of being a ‘burden on family, friends/caregivers’, 15 were included that the ‘financial implications of treatment’ were a factor and fewer than 1/3 said that ‘Inadequate pain control, or concern about it’ was a reason for their decision.

There are nine times as many people dying now through this law in Oregon as there were in the year 2000 and the existing safeguards are being weakened by the year.

Remember, this is Baroness Meacher’s hand-picked example. She could have chosen Belgium, which only took ten years from its first euthanasia law to legalising euthanasia for children. 4.6% of deaths in Flanders were by euthanasia in 2013, 1.7% without an explicit request. Researchers suggest that euthanasia is under-reported by 50% and these missing cases are likely to be the more ethically problematic.

Similar stories arise in the Netherlands and Canada. What makes Baroness Meacher, and campaigners backing her, so confident that the safeguards in the proposed law will hold, when they haven’t anywhere else?

It’s time for Christians to step up

Christians are all too easily emotionally manipulated into supporting assisted suicide. It can be made to sound like the kind thing to do. But in reality, it is unnecessary, dangerous and wrong.

You can read more about this in our booklet.

But you can also listen to our upcoming Gospel Issues seminar with Dr Peter Saunders – CEO of the International Christian Medical and Dental Fellowship, who will explain why Christians should not support the ‘right to die’.

The All Party Parliamentary Group for Dying Well also hosted a briefing for MPs this week, attended by Health Secretary Matt Hancock.

[1] Note that there were ‘only’ 245 deaths, which translates to 3,880 deaths with a UK-sized population.

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