Pro-death campaign video ‘misleading and irresponsible’

12 September 2019

Senior leaders at the national charity for hospice and palliative care have criticised a pro-death campaign group for its recent video, saying that it “plays on people’s anxiety and fear about the end of life, and amplifies these in a picture of ‘care’ that is highly inaccurate and distressing.”

Dignity in Dying released its video, The Inescapable Truth, to publicise its campaign to legalise assisted suicide in the UK. The unsettling video features a mother talking to her son about his grandfather’s death. She uncomfortably says phrases like “It was like drifting off to sleep”, intercut with flashbacks portraying the death as agonising and traumatic.

Carole Walford and Tracey Bleakley, respectively Chief Clinical Officer and Chief Executive of Hospice UK explain in their open letter to Dignity in Dying that the film is “by no means an accurate portrayal of hospice care” and is “a misrepresentation that undermines a strong evidence base of expert care delivered by over 200 hospices”. They call for the video to be taken down, strongly objecting to “campaigning about end of life care that could scare people away from the support they so desperately need at this time; care that alleviates suffering, listens, communicates, and through skilled evidence based interventions meets the personal, physical, emotional and spiritual needs.”

Dignity in Dying – which has not yet taken the video down – sees assisted suicide as the compassionate way to alleviate end of life suffering. But parliamentary efforts to allow doctors to help patients kill themselves have been consistently rejected in recent years, including by 330 votes to 118 in 2015.

Care Not Killing, the UK alliance which opposes assisted suicide and euthanasia, helpfully summarised the debates in the House of Commons, showing some of the main objections to the bill, speeches given by former healthcare professionals, questions which were raised but not well answered and comments from life experience that were quoted in the chamber.

Paul Huxley, Communications Manager for Christian Concern, said:

“Evidence from around the world shows that it is in no way safe to endorse assisted suicide through its legalisation. Laws that are initially promoted for the ‘hard cases’ are consistently pushed to less severe cases, leading to increases in deaths and even moving from voluntary to non-voluntary or involuntary.

“What’s more, permitting assisted suicide would inevitably lead to pressure – deliberate or accidental – on vulnerable people to choose the quicker, cheaper option of death over palliative care. In turn, this would likely result in less funding and less research into improved palliative care.

“In all but the most severe cases, proper palliative medicine is able to significantly relieve symptoms of pain during end of life care. Deliberate killing is dangerous to others and puts men and women in the place of God, determining who lives and who dies.”

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