Saturday, September 27, 2014

Not a slippery slope, but 'an avalanche'

Frank Van Den Bleeken, who is serving a life sentence for rape and murder, has become the first prisoner to be given permission by a Belgian court to undergo euthanasia.

He is 50 years old and is not terminally ill, but claims he is suffering "unbearable psychological anguish." "What's the point in sitting here until the end of time and rotting away?" he says.

Some 15 other prisoners have now reportedly made inquiries about euthanasia.

Since euthanasia was legalised in Belgium some 12 years ago, qualifications have been steadily expanded. Says Paul Moynan, of CARE for Europe: "With euthanasia being packaged as palliative care, our care homes are not safe. With its extension this year for all ages, our children are not safe. And now the mentally ill are not safe. This is not a slippery slope, but a rapid avalanche."

This is the danger of making so-called mercy killing legal. Wherever it has been permitted, it has become increasingly easy to obtain.

Since 2006, British parliaments have been asked to legalise euthanasia or assisted suicide three times. Each effort has been unsuccessful. But the House of Lords is now believed to be more favourably inclined to a change in the law. And in a recent appeal, the Supreme Court upheld the law, dismissing the appeal, but hinted that if Parliament does not make a satisfactory change it would consider allowing individuals wishing assisted suicide to have their cases heard by a High Court judge.

 Lord Falconer's Assisted Dying Bill, which has already passed its second reading, has been criticised for its lack of adequate safeguards. It would allow doctors to dispense lethal drugs to adults who were mentally competent, judged to have six months or less to live, and to have a "settled wish" to end their lives. These conditions are difficult to assess. Apparently it would only be necessary for a doctor to say it was his "genuine view" that these conditions applied for lethal drugs to be given.

All major disability rights groups in the UK oppose the bill. It would allow assisted suicide for a few - but place pressure on a far greater number of vulnerable people - old, sick, disabled, depressed - to end their lives for fear of being a burden to others.

No comments: