The Westminster Health and Social Care Select Committee have opened an Inquiry into the current law on assisted suicide. This is something the pro-assisted suicide lobby have campaigned for. The Committee has issued a call for evidence, and it is open to the public to respond. It is very important that the Committee read responses that demonstrate the strong and powerful arguments against changing the current law.
The Inquiry is open until 20 January 2023 and to help you respond, we’ve prepared this short guide. Please do pass this web page onto anyone you know who would want to respond.
The online response form for an individual to respond is very short: 6 questions, most of which are selecting pre-set options. We are suggesting answering 3 of the questions. Question 2 is especially important as you have an opportunity to explain why you are opposed to assisted suicide being legalised.
Please use this guide to respond via this online form before 20 January.
Q1. Suicide and attempted suicide are not crimes in England and Wales. However, it is a crime for a person to encourage or assist the suicide of another person. Euthanasia (healthcare professionals administering lethal drugs) is also illegal. Which of the statements below best reflects your view?
- We suggest selecting the ‘I broadly agree with the law on this issue in England and Wales’ option.
Q2. Please tell us why you have responded as you have set out above (no more than 300 words).
If it is appropriate, you may wish to reference your own experience, perhaps as a healthcare professional or carer, or as someone with lived experience either yourself or through a family member or friend of suffering from a terminal or chronic illness, or perhaps some form of disability.
In your own words, please consider making some of the following points outlining why you broadly agree with the current law:
- Laws are not just ‘regulatory instruments. They also send powerful social messages. The current law is clear that bringing about the death of another person, whatever the circumstances, is not acceptable. Any change to the law would send the message that if we are terminally ill, taking our own lives is something we should consider. This is not the mark of a compassionate society. It also has a chilling effect on those who are terminally or chronically ill or otherwise vulnerable.
- Retaining the current law means there is no pressure on vulnerable individuals to consider whether they should opt for an assisted suicide. Any right to die would become a duty a die if the law was changed. A subtle pressure would be placed on those living with disabilities, the terminally ill, the old, and those who feel they are being a burden to either their family or the NHS to use assisted suicide.
- Retaining the current law means there is no need to put in a place of framework of safeguards which evidence suggests will not actually work. Point out that in Canada, where assisted suicide and euthanasia was legalised in 2016, within five years, there have been further legal changes to expand the criteria and key ‘safeguards’ have disappeared. If that is the case elsewhere, why would it be any different in England and Wales, especially considering the similarities between the UK and Canada?
- Retaining the current law means that there is no fundamental change in the relationships between medical professionals and patients since medical professionals should not be involved in the ending of life.
- You could finish by saying that you believe we should value and care for the most vulnerable in our communities and not introduce a law that will create pressure to die – whether that pressure is implicit or overt.
- Investing in palliative care, mental health, and support services so everyone has access to the high-quality care should be a priority.
Q3. Which of the following factors are most important to you when considering the issue? Please select up to three.
We suggest picking the following three from the list.
- Impact on healthcare professionals.
- Risk of coercion of vulnerable groups.
- Risk of devaluing lives of specific groups.
You may notice we’re advising you not to select ‘sanctity of life’. This is simply because such a response could easily be dismissed as ‘religious’ and therefore in some way biased.
Q4. If you have selected ‘other’ and wish to expand
- Please note: we have advised choosing specific options under 3 and if you have done that, there is no need to respond to this question.
- If you have chosen ‘other’, using your own words you could highlight that other key concerns include:
- The fundamental change in the doctor/patient relationship that would result from legalising assisted suicide.
- The probable negative impact on suicide and suicide prevention efforts.
- The near certainty that eligibility criteria would extend from terminal illness to chronic, from physical illness to mental, and even to disability more generally.
Q5. Do you think any of the following would be helpful?
We do not think any of the options listed would be at all helpful, so we strongly recommend leaving this section blank.
- If you would like to answer ‘Other’, please see below for a suggested response.
Q6. Other resources
Please note: we have advised not replying to Question 5 and therefore suggest leaving this blank.
However, if you wanted to respond ‘Other’ for Question 5. in answer to this question, you could suggest further research on the situation in Canada – where both assisted suicide and euthanasia are legal – would be instructive, given the similarities between Canada and the UK.
Don’t forget to respond by 20 January 2023. If you are an individual, please respond via this online form.
Please also share this guide with anyone you know who could make a response.