Assisted Suicide? - put the whole thing to death

First published 14th August 2015
There maybe some good reasons for changing the law to allow physician assisted suicide (PAS), but truthfully, none of them are good enough to make me think it would be a good idea to permit this change in the law. Indeed I think it would be literally fatal for some!

The supporters of PAS of course are very clear that this is a simple matter of individual choice. (Choice being the great god of a consumerised society).

Except, of course the choice they present us with is extreme. It goes like this You can either die a death in great pain and distress or you can support a change in the law which will allow a doctor to bring lethal drugs for self-administration, (where possible) which will kill you. The media presents this as a courageous and noble thing to do. Let me be clear, it would not be for me to judge the motives of those who have already opted for a one way trip to a clinic in Switzerland. Those cases just makes me very sad.

The Church of England, with the exception of a high profile, now retired, Archbishop (and friend) and without doubt some of our Church members and clergy, has been resolutely against a change in the law.

Of course, this leaves those of us who don't want PAS open to the criticism that we don't care about those in great distress in the hour of death. As a former hospice chaplain, I refute this. In fact the Christian Church has a long and noble history of seeking to assist people to die well without killing them.

Palliative care options may be inconsistent across the country, but a huge amount of know how has been, and is being learnt about effective pain control. The Church's position is not that 'pain is a noble thing.' We need more palliative care provision rather than handing out the right in law to take life.

Those who support PAS consistently refuse to take seriously the 'slippery slope' argument. Selectively quoting statistics from other parts of the world that have gone down this route, they ignore some of the more indicting evidence from other countries. Eg the decision of Belgium to extend this 'right' to children.

As it is, the desire of the elderly and the seriously ill 'not to be a burden' to their families is understandable, but capable of ruthless manipulation. Those who support this must assume that all carers actually care. This, despite the fact that elder abuse and the shocking stories of the terrible treatment handed out to certain vulnerable groups in our culture at the hands of carers, if not commonplace, is widely recognised. Even families can and do have mixed motives

I have argued in the recent past that giving people a choice is in itself coercive, not least to those who 'don't want to be a burden' to those around them. How will all this impact the disabled or the depressed? No-one likes to think about these questions.

What will enshrining this kind of legislation in law do for the integrity of the doctor/patient relationship? What will it really say about the integrity and value of individual lives. I hope our MP's will weigh all this up before they exercise their vote when it comes - and it will.

We need to think some more about dying well, but this kind of legislation really isn't the way forward. It needs to be stopped.

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