Consultation on Assisted
Dying/Assisted Suicide – January 2023
The Health and Social Care Committee in
the UK Parliament
conducted a public consultation as part of its inquiry
into assisted dying/assisted suicide. Below is my response to that consultation, which closed on Friday 20 January 2023.
1] I broadly agree …
2] The 1961 Suicide Act has a stern face and a kind heart – it punishes the criminal, and it protects the vulnerable. That is what good laws do. Moreover, it provides some discretion for prosecution in the most severe cases.
By contrast, assisted dying/assisted suicide laws enacted in other jurisdictions have been signally disastrous – their eligibility criteria have, without exception, been subjected to a dangerous slippery slope of widening, from the terminally ill, to the mentally ill, to those who are ‘tired of life’, and now even to children.
The plain truth is this – robust legal safeguards cannot be comprehensively written down on a piece of paper – the weak and the vulnerable will remain unguarded. And once the concept of causing premature death is decriminalised, the practice grows and grows – year on year, the numbers of deaths invariably increase. Moreover, whenever inchoate assisted suicide is accepted as legal, decent and honourable, its proponents then demand the legalisation of full-blown euthanasia – vide Belgium, the Netherlands, Canada, and so on.
Further obstacles exist. For example, predicting forthcoming deaths in, say, 6 months is unfeasible; discerning the likelihood of financial and emotional pressures from families is unrealistic; assessing hasty, bad decisions made under acute depression and duress is implausible.
Palliative care is the principal antidote to calls for assisted dying/assisted suicide. Therefore additional, better, and more widespread palliative care is essential – the dying need assisted living, not assisted dying.
We must have the utmost empathy and sympathy for all those who live and suffer on a daily basis. However, the gravity and consequences of changing the current law are too great. The outcome would be too far-reaching, and too devastating for the disadvantaged, the disabled, and the dying. Legal protection, medical practice, and our regard for human life would never be the same again.
3] Personal dignity, risk of coercion of vulnerable groups and ‘other’.
4] The historic doctor-patient relationship of respect and trust would end if an assisted dying/assisted suicide law were enacted. Currently, doctors have a leading role in preventing suicide – a change in the law would ask them to facilitate suicide. The consequences would be hideous.
research and ‘other’.
6] Obtaining and assessing the responses from members of the majority disability rights groups, who are generally opposed to assisted dying/assisted suicide legislation, would be enlightening. Many fear that they would be ‘pushed to the front’ of the queue for assisted dying.