Saturday, February 01, 2014

The road to terrible change

Lord Falconer's bill to legalise assisted dying will have its second reading in the next month or two. The euthanasia lobby, we are told, is limbering up for the fight of its life: to change the law once and for all. Britain's peers are being bombarded with literature and pestered by people who want the law changed.

Writes Baroness Finlay, a professor of palliative care: "My opposition to legislation of this nature is well known. My experience of caring for dying patients over many years tells me it is just not safe and I meet doctors who feel that it is too dangerous to put 'assisted dying' in their hands.

"It may suit a small number of strong-minded and highly-determined individuals, but I can tell you that for every patient like that whom I have encountered there are 20 others who are more vulnerable - frightened of what the future might bring and anxious not to place an unwanted care burden on hard-pressed relatives.

"These are the people I am concerned for and these are the people the law now protects. The law is there to protect the weak, not to increase options for the strong. We should leave it as it is."

Lord Falconer's bill is the fourth to come before the House of Lords in the last decade. The three previous bills were defeated, and this bill is almost identical to the last. So why introduce another one?

James Mumford, writing in the Spectator, says 200 new peers have been created since the last bill in 2006, and it's hoped enough of them can be swayed to vote for change.

He says the bill is full of faults. There is the difficulty of predicting death from terminal illness within the qualifying period. There is the danger of "doctor shopping" for a compliant doctor. And there's "the thin end of the wedge."

"Incremental steps, minor adjustments, tiny turns - that is how great and terrible change occurs."

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