“Medical assistance in dying” risks being seen and used as a cheap solution to human suffering


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The legalization of euthanasia will only worsen the current offer of care for the terminally ill

Baroness Meacher’s Assisted Dying Bill is the fourth attempt to legalize the administration of lethal drugs to terminally ill people to end their life. The fundamental and practical flaws in the bill are made clear by the range of amendments that have been tabled. It is therefore surprising and disturbing that proponents of what is euphemistically called “assisted dying” have introduced a nearly identical bill every time and failed to address concerns raised by the House on previous occasions. .

The bill would do nothing to close the gaps in care. It risks being seen and used as a cheap solution to human suffering. Patients fail to get the specialized palliative care they need every day, with uneven availability due to reliance on voluntary sector funding. The introduction of legislation for “assisted dying”, far from improving the current offer of care for the terminally ill, would worsen the situation.

The experience of countries that have taken the “assisted dying” route shows that the development of palliative care is hampered where such legislation is in place.

Canadian physician Leonie Herx, writing in The Telegraph in October 2021 about her country’s experience, said: “The impact on palliative medicine has been enormous. Hospices that do not offer assisted dying face closure and loss of government funding… Administering death is cheaper and easier than providing good care.

Diverting time, effort and resources from improving palliative care will do nothing for those who do not receive the care they desperately need, nor for an already strained health system. Worse, it suggests to terminally ill people that dignity and illness are incompatible, and sends the subliminal message that we must consider ending our own life.

The bill asks parliament to sign a blank check

By normalizing suicide, such legislation creates a gap in suicide prevention strategies. Suicide rates in the UK have fallen over the past decades. Compare that with Oregon, where the overall suicide rate (excluding assisted suicides) has increased 17 percent since “assisted dying” was legalized. Oregon’s suicide rate remains one of the highest in the United States.

We are constantly assured that an “assisted dying” law would come with “strict guarantees”. But Baroness Meacher’s bill contains no real guarantees. All it contains are vague sentences about the need to ensure that someone asking for lethal drugs makes a voluntary and informed request, has an established desire to commit suicide, and has the capacity to make the decision. .

But it does not contain minimum steps that a doctor, or the court, faced with such a request must take to ensure that the requisite conditions actually exist.

Regardless of the unreliable prognosis of terminal illness, the personal and social judgments required are as complex as their consequences are impressive. In reality, the so-called guarantees are nothing more than statements of what supporters of the bill envision will happen in an ideal world.

The supporters of the bill are trying to reassure us that this would all be resolved later if Parliament agreed to change the law. But the question must be asked: How can Parliament decide whether the law should be changed without seeing how the safeguards would work in practice and ensuring that they would be effective?

We are not talking about tax law here. We are talking about life and death judgments and the supply of lethal drugs to end life. Yet Baroness Meacher’s bill treats guarantees as second-rate issues for the checkboxes.

For such a significant change in the law, the guarantees are essential, not the details for later consideration. The bill actually asks Parliament to sign a blank check.

All of this has been repeatedly pointed out to the euthanasia lobby, but nothing has been done to address this major flaw. Instead, we see the same set of propositions served over and over again. They have already been dismissed as deficient and should be dismissed now. As legislators, we deserve better.

Baroness Finlay is a peer of Crossbench

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