Opposition Mounting to House of Lords’ Assisted Suicide Bill

by Hilary White

LONDON, May 9, 2006 ( – With the prospect of the legalization of doctor assisted suicide looming in the House of Lords in Britain next week, a UK group is saying euthanasia is opposed to good health care. The campaign, Care Not Killing, is opposing the pro-euthanasia group, Dignity in Dying, that has created much sympathy in the UK for the bill.

Among Care Not Killing’s individual supporters is David Williams, 51, from Cardiff, who survived cancer and is now speaking out against the pressure for euthanasia. Currently, doctors could face as much as 14 years in prison for assisting a patient to kill himself.

When Williams’ cancer was putting pressure on his spine and his pain was at its height, he said he considered euthanasia.

He told the BBC, “I was 35 at the time and they (the surgeons) brought me down and said, ‘In two years you will probably be in a wheelchair and you probably won’t reach 40. It was a bit of a bolt out of the blue really.”

“While I was in all sorts of pain and agony it was very clear to me the distress I was causing the family, especially with Lynne just having (had) the baby and having two children I did consider euthanasia.”

But good palliative care, that focuses on pain treatment, and his love of his family turned him away from the choice for death. Williams opposes euthanasia because he fears abuses of the law.

Such abuses are being reported more frequently in those jurisdictions where euthanasia and physician assisted suicide are legalized. Much-touted “safeguards” built into laws have proven to be so elastic as to be largely meaningless.

In the Netherlands, the courts ruled long before formal legalization of euthanasia, that “guidelines” protecting doctors from prosecution, could be interpreted to allow the euthanasia of patients suffering from “psychic suffering” or “the potential disfigurement of personality.”

Care Not Killing supports palliative care and argues that when appropriate pain management is available, the demand for euthanasia will disappear.

In related news, a group of doctors involved in palliative care has joined its voice to the opposition to Lord Joffe’s bill, calling assisted suicide a “bad solution to a difficult problem.”

The group has sent a letter to the Daily Telegraph saying that the proposed legislation is a threat to vulnerable patients. They say the Bill “overturns without a thought the medical ethic of avoiding malevolence and the criminality of assisting suicide” and they fear that if passed it would “open the floodgates”.

Dr Steve Dyer, a palliative care consultant at St Peter and St James Hospice, Haywards Heath, West Sussex, who organised the letter, told the Telegraph, “This bill is at variance with the well-received principles of the care of the dying. We respect the views, the dignity and the autonomy of our patients but we do not believe it is right to end a patient’s life.”

See Care Not Killing website:


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