The following letter was written by Dr Kevin Fitzpatrick on behalf of Not Dead Yet UK to British Prime Minister David Cameron.
Dear Prime Minister,
We are hugely grateful for your stated personal opposition to legalising assisted suicide, especially in light of the forthcoming ‘Marris Bill’ (September 11, 2015) in the House of Commons. We are however deeply concerned about the intention to have a ‘free vote’ at that time. That such that a law might be passed with such consequences, especially for vulnerable and disabled people, on the strength of ‘individual conscience’, is very worrying indeed.
We imagine that you already know that no Disabled Person’s Organisation (DPO) has favoured a change in law to permit third party intervention in any individual’s end-of-life decisions. Not Dead Yet UK is the lead DPO speaking out in Britain, and for example in the US disabled colleagues have been clear in rejecting such laws, for reasons of their consequences. Legislators there have almost universally turned away from their intentions to legalise assisted suicide once they are fully informed of those consequences.
Through rigorous research, we have gathered a body of evidence that such laws are not only dangerous, leading to the deaths of disabled people, but they also fundamentally depend on the stated views of their ‘architects’ in other jurisdictions, that our disabled lives are ‘not worth living’. This is paradigmatic disability discrimination – fatal discrimination in this instance.
Certainly some disabled individuals, like some non-disabled people, do come to seriously consider dying early, but disabled people will sometimes reflect their communities, discussions in the public domain and other factors. While we respect their views, we are at pains to distinguish a very few individual voices, supported by a wealthy pro-assisted suicide lobby, from our collective view. The effect of any law is to cover every citizen. Extension of the law’s reach, once passed, is almost immediate to those supposedly never intended to be ‘beneficiaries’ of them.
We see the lack of universally available best palliative and social care, and critically the right kind of human support, as core to what leads many people to despair of their futures, however long or short they may be. When the only choice available to someone in despair is death, we count that as no choice at all. The rhetoric around choice an autonomy is just that – rhetoric. Choice is an illusion, and the proposed law places all the decision-making power in the hands of doctors anyway, removing it from patients.