Assisted Suicide: “No amount of safeguarding will ever be enough”

The following article was published on the blog of the disability rights group Scope in the UK.

Juliet Marlow

Juliet Marlow

Juliet Marlow, a disability rights campaigner and member of Not Dead Yet UK, explains why she is against legalising assisted suicide.

"I want support to live, not to die!"

By Juliet Marlow

Lord Falconer’s Private Member’s Bill proposing the legalisation of doctor-assisted suicide (AS) for those with six months or less to live will receive its third reading in the House of Lords today, Friday 16 January.

This isn’t the first time the matter has been debated. Every few years somebody will make the proposal only for it to be nervously put aside. But this time feels different. Despite its controversial nature it seems the idea has somehow caught public imagination and there is a very real chance that this time it could become law.

My name is Juliet. I’m 44, married, a PhD student and freelance writer. I sing in a rock/pop band and mostly love my life. I have been disabled since I was four; I use a wheelchair and rely on PAs to assist me with pretty much everything. I am also passionately opposed to the legalisation of AS.

On the surface, AS doesn’t look that unreasonable. People know that sick and disabled people have had to fight hard for control of our own lives so naturally they assume we want to control our deaths too.

Link to the full article

Assisted Suicide campaigners’ deaths prove we do not need to change assisted suicide laws

By Dr Kevin Fitzpatrick (OBE), Director of EPC - International.

Kevin Fitzpatrick

Kevin Fitzpatrick

We do not ‘speak ill of the dead’. De mortuis nil nisi bonumdicendum est, a mortuary aphorism that dates from at least the 4th century is, I suspect, rooted in a superstitious fear that the dead may come back to harm us if we say bad things about them; perhaps that we might ourselves be condemned to wander as ‘lost souls’ in revenge for badmouthing those who are gone. We may, at times, wish to honour the memory of someone we couldn’t stand in life, or whose works and their consequences we hated; but if we are to avoid dishonesty, insincerity, we must have the courage to stand by what we said when they were alive. We can still be properly respectful in how we speak.

Of course the rule does not apply universally, but it seems we only allow ourselves to tell hard truths if the dead person was truly bad, a mass murderer. Maybe that comes from recognising that we are all fragile, given to making mistakes, doing some bad things at times. 

In any case, it is surely possible to distinguish between the person and their legacy. I met and debated with Debbie Purdy a couple of times and I thought she was wrong – she made what is called a ‘category mistake’ – mixing up the category of one individual saying ‘I want to die now’ with the idea that such a wish must be enshrined in law. Individual wishes are just that – individual. Laws cover every citizen of a state or jurisdiction in which they are passed - which means they are a whole different category. It was her campaigning for this category mistake to be legalised that brought us into opposition.

Link to the full article