Parliament needs to decide on assisted dying. Without it we are increasing inequalities….

The Telegraph leader opines 29th December 2014: Parliament needs to decide on assisted dying … And you can listen to Lord Falconer as well.. NHSreality supports a Dutch Style legal process, as without it we are increasing inequalities.. The BMA and our elected representatives have rejected the option – I believe against their members/constituent’s wishes. Something is really wrong with our democratic structures when 20% of voters rule the parliament, and doctors opinions are excluded if they are too busy to attend conference.

Editorial Cartoon: Jack Kevorkian

It is right that there is a vote on assisted dying. But its supporters must accept the result if it is not the one they want

Few subjects excite greater controversy or divide opinion more than helping the terminally ill to die. For several years now, efforts have been made in the House of Lords to frame legislation that would allow doctors lawfully to assist in bringing a life to an end in certain circumstances.

Last July, peers gave a Second Reading to Lord Falconer’s Assisted Dying Bill and in November an amendment was agreed to include the additional safeguard of judicial oversight. However, it is highly unlikely that this measure will complete all its stages before Parliament is dissolved at the end of March for the general election.

In a letter to this newspaper today, supporters of the Falconer Bill, including doctors and leading clerics, urge the next Parliament to resolve this issue once and for all. They argue that the progress of the legislation leaves Britain “closer than ever” to a change in the law and they want the political parties to commit to providing legislative time to make it a reality.

Although we have long opposed the legalisation of assisted dying, we agree that Parliament needs to reach a settled conclusion on this issue. It cannot be gainsaid that opinion polls consistently show large majorities in favour of such a reform, though we would maintain that when the arguments are fully aired and understood, this support will diminish.

One problem is the “slippery slope” potential, which proponents of the Bill refuse to acknowledge. Their argument is that strict safeguards have now been attached to the legislation, requiring the assessment of two doctors and a High Court judge before assisted dying could be made available. But as we have seen with abortion, it is not long before such apparent protections are watered down, however good the initial intentions may have been.We only need to look at countries such as the Netherlands and Belgium to find the “normalisation” of euthanasia despite a host of so-called safeguards. Just as the signatories to today’s letter have strong views in favour of assisted dying, it would not be hard to gather together an alliance of opponents who could put an equally powerful – and equally well-intentioned – case against.

For this reason, it is right that Parliament should find time to see this legislation through to a conclusion, rather than leaving such an important matter to ad hoc rulings from the courts and prosecutors. This is precisely the sort of debate MPs and peers should be having. But it also means that if they vote against assisted dying then its supporters should accept the outcome and not keep coming back time and time again until they get what they want.

Mark Tran reports in The Guardian 29th December 2014: Assisted suicide campaigner Debbie Purdy dies aged 51

Activist won landmark ruling that led to clarification of law on right to die

 

And Kat Lay in The Times 30th December 2014: Assisted suicide campaigner Debbie Purdy dies in hospice 

Update 30th December 2014 from Peter Harvey in The Telegraph under the title: Letters: Legitimacy of hastening death must not be decided by public opinion polls

SIR – I am interested in the claim (Letters, December 29) by those writing in support of legalising the hastening of death that “an overwhelming majority” of the public supports such a change in the law.

I suspect that, given the choice, an overwhelming majority of the public would support many things, but acquiescing on the part of those who govern us is not the purpose of representative democracy, and even minority views still have legitimacy.

So, speaking as one who has supported a close relative through his last days and, while not acting to prolong that life (as this was not his wish), did not act to hasten death, which was finally and by any measure painless, I would like to record that I, for one, do not support the legislation that so many apparently advocate. I suspect I am not alone in that.

Peter D Harvey
Walton Highway, Norfolk

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This entry was posted in A Personal View, Commissioning, Rationing, Stories in the Media on by .

About Roger Burns - retired GP

I am a retired GP and medical educator. I have supported patient participation throughout my career, and my practice, St Thomas; Surgery, has had a longstanding and active Patient Participation Group (PPG). I support the idea of Community Health Councils, although I feel they should be funded at arms length from government. I have taught GP trainees for 30 years, and been a Programme Director for GP training in Pembrokeshire 20 years. I served on the Pembrokeshire LHG and LHB for a total of 10 years. I completed an MBA in 1996, and I along with most others, never had an exit interview from any job in the NHS! I completed an MBA in 1996, and was a runner up for the Adam Smith prize for economy and efficiency in government in that year. This was owing to a suggestion (St Thomas' Mutual) that practices had incentives for saving by being allowed to buy rationed out services in the following year.

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