Easy ways to oppose the British assisted suicide bill

This article was published on Dr Peter Saunders blog on September 9, 2015.

By Dr Peter Saunders, Campaign Director - Care Not Killing Alliance

On Friday 11 September, MPs will vote on the Assisted Dying (No.2) Bill which aims to allow doctors to prescribe lethal drugs to mentally competent adults with a terminal illness.

It's a Private Members' Bill tabled by Labour's Rob Marris MP, with the support of campaign group Dignity in Dying (formerly the Voluntary Euthanasia Society).

Here are some easy things you can do to oppose the bill ahead of Friday's vote in Parliament.

Read, Act, Pray and Go!

Read - CMF and the Care Not Killing Alliance have produced a number of excellent reading materials to inform your arguments against the bill. Read this CMF Blog on why the current law is not 'broken' and doesn't need 'fixing'. Also read this useful guide on the bill.

Act - Social media is becoming increasingly powerful as a tool to influence public opinion. If you're on Facebook would you share this post on your networks? Also if you're on Twitter please Retweet this Tweet. Together, our voice is stronger.

Pray and Go - If you are free this Friday please join us for a rally in Old Palace Yard (adjacent to Parliament Square), whilst the bill is being debated, beginning at 8.30am. All details here.

Summary of Liz Carr's speech at Not Dead Yet - UK rally

The summary of Liz Carr's speech was published by Dr Peter Saunders on his blog.

Not Dead Yet assembled at 10 Downing Street

Not Dead Yet assembled at 10 Downing Street

People with disabilites descended on Westminster today in droves to lobby MPs on Rob Marris’s Assisted Dying (no 2) Bill.

Marris's assisted suicide bill is due for its second reading on 11 September. 

Stand-up comedian and actress Liz Carr addressed the gathering and was introduced by former Paralympian Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson. 

They later visited 10 Downing Street to hand a letter to the Prime Minister.

The following is a summary by Dr Peter Saunders of Liz Carr’s speech. This is based on his (not fully legible) handwritten notes and does no justice to Liz's sense of humor and eloquence but at least it will give you the general gist. The talk was recorded so I will post a link to the video here once it has been produced. Any errors in transcription are his alone:

Summary of Liz Carr's speech 

We shouldn’t be fooled by the term ‘assisted dying’. This is assisted suicide. So let’s call it what it actually is. It’s about people having help to kill themselves.

The former name of Dignity in Dying (DID), the organisation pushing this bill, is the ‘Voluntary Euthanasia Society’. They will use any euphemism to distort the facts and disguise their wider agenda.

Their main weapons are misinformation, emotion and fear – fear about pain, dependence and disability. So we have to fight this fear with facts and truth.

Is there anyone in this room who wouldn’t prefer a pain free death with dignity? Of course not. We all want that. But this law is not the way to achieve it.

Assisted suicide is not about having a painless and pleasant death either. The drugs are unpleasant and they often do not work quickly. Far better to be in the hands of a doctor trained in good palliative care who can relieve your symptoms properly.

We are being cast as uncompassionate for opposing this bill. But we are not the people who lack compassion. We understand what it is like to suffer and to have limited options.

Link to the full article

Experts in care of the elderly speak out strongly against assisted suicide

This article was published by Dr Peter Saunders on his blog on July 13, 2015.

Dr. Peter Saunders

Dr. Peter Saunders

Peter Saunders is a founder of the Care Not Killing Alliance.

The leading organisation representing health professionals caring for the elderly in Britain has this last week spoken out strongly against the legalisation of assisted suicide.

The British Geriatrics Society is the professional body of specialists in the health care of older people in the United Kingdom.

It has over 2,750 members worldwide and draws together experts from all the relevant disciplines in the field - doctors, nurses, allied health professionals and scientists.

In a powerful statement issued on July 10 the society says that whilst it respects that patients have a ‘right’ to determine the choice of treatment and care they receive and some symptoms are ‘difficult to control’ a policy which allows physicians to assist patients to die is ‘not acceptable’. 

Speaking from the experience of caring for ‘many older people with frailty, disability and those who are dying’ the experts ‘accept life has a natural end’ and believe that their job is not to ‘prolong life at all costs’ but to ‘improve quality of life’ whilst accepting that death is inevitable.

They express deep concern that many requests to end life come directly or indirectly from the patients’ families and not the older person themselves: ‘Often such requests are then forgotten if such degrading symptoms as urinary and faecal incontinence, depression and unremitting pain are relieved.’ 

They argue that the clear priority is ensuring that the best possible care is available.

They observe that much of the public demand for assisted dying seems to stem from ‘the fear of a prolonged death with increasing disability sometimes associated with unwanted burdensome medical care’. 
But they argue that this suffering at the end of life can be prevented ‘by a change in the focus of care – from prolonging life to addressing the individuals own priorities and symptoms, and by the involvement of medical professionals skilled in palliative and end of life care’. 

Link to the full article

Scottish assisted suicide bill must be rejected by Parliament

This article was published by Dr Peter Saunders on his blog.

By Dr Peter Saunders

A report by MSPs criticising the proposed assisted suicide Bill before Holyrood has been welcomed by campaigners opposing the legislation. 

The Assisted Suicide (Scotland) Bill, introduced by Green Party MSP Patrick Harvie, is due to have its first stage debate in the Scottish Parliament by the end of May.

On a raft of crucial matters the committee has revealed the Bill to be lacking and deeply flawed.

And while stopping short of recommending MSPs to throw out the Bill they have made their view clear that the majority of the Health and Sport Committee, which has been scrutinising the Bill, oppose it.

Dr Gordon Macdonald of Care Not Killing  said,

‘This report confirms what we have said along. The Bill is poorly thought out, ill-conceived, badly-drafted and effectively not fit for purpose. We are delighted that the committee agrees with us that the Bill contains significant flaws which are likely to prevent it from being enacted. It is gratifying to note a majority of the committee is against the Bill although they have not made a formal recommendation to the Parliament to reject the Bill.’

Link to the full article

New legal challenge in UK for ‘clarifying’ guidelines on prosecutions for assisted suicide

By Peter Saunders - From the Care Not Killing Alliance in the UK.

Perhaps surprisingly, the Sunday Times has been the only broadsheet newspaper to cover a landmark case which challenges the powers of the crown prosecution service.

Alison Saunders

Alison Saunders

The CPS head Alison Saunders, Director of public prosecutions (DPP), is already in considerable hot water over her failure to prosecute Lord Janner for alleged sex abuse, an action she justified on grounds of him not being capable of standing trial because of dementia. This new development may add considerably to those difficulties. 

Sadly this latest case lies behind the Sunday Times paywall which has somewhat restricted it coming to the wider public attention that it deserves, so I will quote some of the article in this post. 

‘A woman who was once so paralysed she could only wink her right eye will this week launch a High Court challenge against “liberal” guidelines on assisted suicide brought in by Alison Saunders, the embattled director of public prosecutions (DPP).

Nikki Kenward, 62, will on Tuesday seek a judicial review after doctors and nurses who help severely disabled or terminally ill people to take their own lives were told that they are now less likely to face criminal charges.’

Kenward, a former theatre manager, was struck down by Guillian-Barre syndrome in 1990, aged 37. 

Link to the full article.

Assisted Suicide – In the face of two major threats the price of freedom is eternal vigilance

By Peter Saunders

Peter Saunders

Peter Saunders

Lord Falconer's Assisted Dying Bill sought to legalise assisted suicide (but not euthanasia) for mentally competent adults (aged over 18) with less than six months to live, subject to 'safeguards' under a two doctors' signature model similar to the Abortion Act 1967.

The Bill had an unopposed second reading in the House of Lords on 18 July 2014 and Committee stage debates took place on 7 November and 16 January 2015. Over 175 amendments were tabled and three votes held. Lord Pannick’s amendment (to delegate the final decision in any specific case to the courts) was ‘accepted’ and attempts to change the bill’s wording throughout from ‘assisted dying’ to ‘assisted suicide’ and to require two doctors to carry out examinations  were defeated by 179-106 and 119-61 respectively. 

The bill has now fallen with the approach of the general election on 7 May and will not enter the House of Commons in this parliament. However it is expected to be reintroduced, possibly in the Commons, later this year. Its progress then will depend very much on the post-election composition of parliament.

Link to the full article

Double assisted suicide of elderly cousins, based on fear of living alone

By Alex Schadenberg, International Chair - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

The Telegraph UK news reported on the assisted suicide deaths of Scottish cousins, Stuart Henderson (86) and Phyllis McConachie (89), who had lived together for 40 years and feared living alone. They died at a suicide clinic in Basel Switzerland.

They were not sick or terminally ill, they were older and feared living alone.

Last year the Swiss suicide groups agreed to extend assisted suicide to people who are elderly but not terminally ill.

Peter Saunders, Campaign Director for the Care Not Killing Alliance stated that these deaths were a great tragedy. Saunders stated:

“Assisted suicide in these circumstances is the ultimate abandonment,” 
“This tragic case strongly underlines the need for comprehensive and affordable patient-centred care in which people's social and spiritual needs and not just physical needs are provided for."

Assisted suicide bills are being debated in Scotland and the UK.

Once society decides that it is acceptable to cause the death of people, the only question remaining is who can be assisted in their suicide.Henderson and McConachie feared living alone. It is concerning that the Swiss suicide group visited them and agreed that their lives were not worth living.

They needed adequate home care and support not assisted suicide.