LONDON, U.K., June 5, 2014 ( – A British aristocrat and legislator has gone to bat for the nation’s disabled, arguing that a proposed law allowing doctor-assisted suicide would target the ill and infirm for euthanasia.

Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, a paraplegic athlete who has won 11 gold medals at the Paralympics and is now a member of the House of Lords, co-signed a scathing letter to the UK’s Daily Telegraph newspaper in which she and other disability-rights advocates accused lawmakers of having double standards when it comes to whether a person should be allowed to commit suicide.

“Why is it that when people who are not disabled want to commit suicide, we try to talk them out of it, but when a disabled person wants to commit suicide, we focus on how we can make that possible?” the letter asked.  “We believe that the campaign to legalise assisted suicide reinforces deep-seated beliefs that the lives of sick and disabled people are not worth as much as other people’s; that if you are disabled or terminally ill, it’s not worth being alive.”


“Disabled people want help to live – not to die.”

Lord Charles Falconer is the leading proponent of the assisted suicide legislation, which would relax Britain’s 1961 Suicide Act. The act currently holds it a crime to help a person take his or her own life, punishable by up to 14 years in prison. Falconer’s bill would permit doctors to prescribe lethal medication to patients with terminal diagnoses who are expected to live less than six months and who are “of sound mind” to ask for the deadly drugs.

But Baroness Jane Campbell, another wheelchair-bound aristocrat who previously served as commissioner of the Disability Rights Commission, says she worries the bill will lead to a slippery slope situation in which the law is expanded to include more and more groups of suffering people. Critics note this happened in Belgium, which began with a similar assisted suicide law for terminally ill adults that has since been expanded to include children and even those who suffer from mental anguish.

“The existing law on assisted suicide rests on a natural frontier,” the Baroness Campbell wrote in an op-ed for the Telegraph in March. “It rests on the principle that we do not involve ourselves in deliberately bringing about the deaths of other people. What the proponents of 'assisted dying' want is to replace that clear and bright line with an arbitrary and permeable one.”

“At the moment they say they want assisted suicide for people who are terminally ill, but for how long will that last, and who decides what is terminal?” she asked.  “If terminal illness, why not chronic and progressive conditions?  And, if chronic and progressive conditions, why not seriously disabled people?”

Baroness Campbell said she felt she was “already on the list,” because Falconer’s own analysis of his bill said he did not believe the public was ready “at this point in time” to allow “a non-terminally ill person with significant physical impairments” to request medically-assisted suicide.

“This sent a shiver down my spine: it is reminiscent of Belgium’s slippery slope,” Campbell said.  “Their euthanasia law is displaying an elasticity that no one could have imagined a few years ago.”

“In a decade from now, do we really want to consider assisting the suicide of some of our children?”

The Vatican has also weighed in against the proposed legislation, with the Apostolic Nuncio to Great Britain, Archbishop Antonio Mennini, condemning the bill as an attack on “human life as a gift from God.”

“Unfortunately we know from experience how easily public opinion can be manipulated, especially using ‘emotional’ arguments that try to move compassionate sentiments,” Abp. Mennini said.  “But once we open this Pandora’s box we know as well the horrible consequences that follow.”

“We have seen that even here [in Britain] regarding abortion, and the last news about ‘selective abortion,’ but also elsewhere, in other European countries which recently have made change in their laws moving from a limited concept of euthanasia to a wider spectre, also including children, as in Belgium,” he added.

Mennini said opponents of the assisted dying bill had Pope Francis’ full support.

The assisted dying bill was expected to be re-introduced in the House of Lords Thursday.


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