Care Not Killing is pleased at the "strength and breadth" of opposition from MPs towards the policy of introducing euthanasia and assisted suicide (EAS), in the UK.
During Monday's Westminster Hall debate, parliamentarians heard about just some of the dangers of introducing so-called "assisted dying", including evidence from Oregon, Canada and the Netherlands, with vulnerable people feeling pressured into ending their lives prematurely, and the growing link between introducing EAS and increases in a jurisdictions suicide rate.
Danny Kruger (Con), Chair of the Dying Well All-Party Group, referred to considerations of financial savings in extending euthanasia in Canada beyond terminal illnesses, and the reality of care rationing within the NHS.
Stephen Timms (Lab) described the NHS as his party's greatest achievement, and said its being underfunded was not a reason to give up on seeking achievable, high-quality, equally-accessed palliative care. He said: "I agree with the organisation Care Not Killing that we want… a funded policy for comprehensive hospice, community and hospital specialist palliative care services across the country, with a duty placed on NHS trusts to ensure these services are made available to all who need them."
As the debate drew to a close, the Minister restated the Government's longstanding position: the ultimate decision is for Parliament, as with other issues of conscience, and "our neutral stance means that this would have to be via private members legislation."
Dr Gordon Macdonald, Chief Executive of Care Not Killing, commented: "Doctors' groups such as the Association of Palliative Medicine, disability rights organisations, and all those who oppose the introduction of euthanasia and assisted suicide will be pleased at the strength and breadth of opposition to changing the law in Parliament.
"We heard MPs acknowledge that palliative care remains a Cinderella service, hugely reliant on charity with many patients who would benefit from this type of care not currently receiving it; this should be the priority. MPs like Sir Peter Bottomley recognised the growing body of evidence that shows legalising assisted suicide or euthanasia does not reduce the suicide rate in the general population but increases it. This was explored convincingly in a recent peer-reviewed study from the UK's Anscombe Bioethics Centre published in February, which showed a 'consistent association' between the passing of assisted suicide and euthanasia laws and an increase in suicide rates (including assisted suicides) among the general population across those countries that have introduced euthanasia or assisted suicide."
Dr Macdonald continued: "Some MPs rightly expressed concern at the mission creep we see in countries like Canada,which legalised so called 'medical assistance in dying' in 2015. The law was originally limited to those whose natural deaths were 'reasonably foreseeable', but in September 2019 the Quebec Superior Court struck down that restriction. This followed the case of Alan Nichols, a former school caretaker who was physically healthy, but struggled with depression. His life was ended by lethal injection in July 2019. That same year also saw the chilling case of Roger Foley, who was repeatedly offered the drugs to kill himself, while being denied the social care to live a dignified life, due to the cost.
"At the same time, deaths from lethal injection continue to rise in Canada. In 2020 7,595 had their lives ended this way, including 1,412 who cited loneliness as a reason for opting to be killed, no doubt this was compounded by Covid. Now the Canadian law has been expanded to include those with chronic conditions, and soon, mental health conditions.
"Our current laws protect vulnerable people and do not need changing, instead we need to refocus our attention on how to ensure we provide the very best palliative care to those who need it."
Care Not Killing is a UK-based alliance bringing together over 40 organisations - human rights and disability rights organisations, health care and palliative care groups, faith-based organisations groups - and thousands of concerned individuals. We have three key aims: to promote more and better palliative care; to ensure that existing laws against euthanasia and assisted suicide are not weakened or repealed; to inform public opinion further against any weakening of the law.
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