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MP's 'four year' prediction is a wake up call about assisted suicide

James Mildred

Sharon mccutcheon FE Pfs43yi PE unsplash

“The exper­i­ence of death is going to get more and more pain­ful, con­trary to what many people believe. The forth­com­ing euthanas­ia will make it more rather than less pain­ful because it will put the emphas­is on per­son­al decision in a way which was bliss­fully ali­en to the whole prob­lem of dying in former times. It will make death even more sub­ject­ively intol­er­able, for people will feel respons­ible for their own deaths and mor­ally oblig­ated to rid their rel­at­ives of their unwanted pres­ence. Euthanas­ia will fur­ther intensi­fy all the prob­lems its advoc­ates think it will solve.” ~ René Girard, Philosopher

This week, Andrew Mitchell told Sky News he thinks assisted suicide could be legalised within four years. That would mean by the time of the next General Election, doctors in England and Wales could be granted the legal right to kill their patients, in certain circumstances. Mr Mitchell believes the mood in Parliament has shifted.

One key reason for his bullishness is that he is one of the MPs who has changed his mind on this issue. Back in 2015, he voted against the Rob Marris Assisted Dying Bill. In previous votes, he also rejected attempts to legalise assisted suicide. But encounters with constituents in very difficult circumstances has led him to change his mind.

You wonder how many more MPs now think legalised assisted killing is acceptable? Moreover, can anything be done to stop the seemingly unstoppable march of assisted suicide campaigners? The heart-wrenching stories of immense suffering are awful and can make even the most staunch opponent of assisted suicide wonder if it might not be the compassionate thing to do.

But we cannot and must not lose sight of what legised assisted suicide and/or euthanasia would accomplish. When it comes to the dangers and risks, nothing has changed. There are no safeguards that would make any assisted suicide law completely and totally safe from abuse or coercion.

The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has reminded all of us about the unique value of life. We’ve seen the outrage over the care homes debacle and the way older and more vulnerable people have shielded themselves. The last thing we need to do is open Pandora’s box and legalise physician assisted suicide.

"We should not for­get that laws are more than just reg­u­lat­ory instru­ments. They also send power­ful social mes­sages. An assisted dying law sends the sub­lim­in­al mes­sage, how­ever unin­ten­ded by legis­lat­ors, that if we are ter­min­ally ill tak­ing our own lives is some­thing we should consider."
Baroness Ilora Finlay of Llandaff Professor of Palliative Medicine & Crossbench Peer

Mr Mitchell’s bold claim will come true if those of us who believe in the right to life do not speak out to defend the value of life. There are two things we need to do.

Firstly, we need to point out the flaws, mistakes and dangers in countries or states where assisted suicide or euthanasia is legal. Secondly, we need to provide a more compelling narrative about the value of life, including providing examples of people who have chosen life and enjoyed moments of great joy even amidst the pain and suffering.

It is the solemn duty of laws to protect the most vulnerable. If we allow doctors the legal right to end their patient’s life, based on arbitrary rules about eligibility, we will change the nature of medical law forever. At CARE, we think life is a gift from God over which we are not completely autonomous. It’s a gift we need to steward, not give away when we want to.

The next four years will see growing pressure to legalise assisted suicide. We cannot simply fall back on old arguments. Instead, we need new, fresh and younger faces to make the case for the value of life from conception, through to its natural end. Otherwise, we will, over time, end up in a similar position to Belgium or the Netherlands, where even children can be killed on certain grounds. Nor can we simply wait for a bill to appear at Westminster. We need to get our messaging out there now and be prepared to argue, defend and engage with proponents of assisted suicide.

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Assisted Suicide

Where assisted suicide is legal, it makes vulnerable people feel like a burden. CARE works to uphold laws that protect those people, and to assist them to live—not to commit suicide.

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