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Assisted suicide

August 2015

Four out of every five deaths by medical euthanasia in Belgium were not discussed with the patients beforehand, the Journal of medical ethics has warned. In a statement from the Pilgrims’ Friend Society, written by Louise Morse, this occurred because the patients were either in a coma diagnosed with dementia or because doctors decided it would not be in their best interests to discuss the matter with them.

According to the report, authored by Professor Raphael Cohen-Almagor of Hull University, some doctors did not tell the families that they were about to give their loved one a lethal injection, because they considered it a medical decision to be made by themselves alone.

Prof. Cohen-Almagor wrote: ‘The decision as to which life is no longer worth living is not in the hands of the patient but in the hands of the doctor’.
The news came as Parliament reopened the debate on so-called ‘compassionate’ assisted death. A private members’ bill, presented in June by Labour MP Rob Marris, would make it legal for anyone with just six months left to live, and who has demonstrated a clear and settled intention to end their life, to do so subject to authorisation from two doctors. The second reading of the bill is scheduled for 11 September this year.

Dr Peter Saunders of the Christian Medical Fellowship said, ‘The lessons are clear. Once you relax the law on euthanasia or assisted suicide steady extension will follow as night follows day’.

Ms Morse wrote: ‘In Britain we want a culture of life, not death. Now that we know who our MPs are, we can email them saying that we want them to oppose Rob Marris’s Assisted Dying Bill. We do not want to see the start of the deadly, slippery slopes that will put us and our loved ones at risk’.

‘Back on the agenda’

Nola Leach, chief executive of charity CARE, said, ‘Assisted suicide is well and truly back on the legislative agenda. When Lord Falconer’s Assisted Dying Bill failed to progress beyond the House of Lord’s before the election, it was victory, but only for a moment.

‘His bill failed to pass into law, not so much because of outright opposition, but simply because there was not enough time in the calendar to complete the necessary scrutiny’.

She warned that the UK could, in a few months’ time, ‘join other European and international nations in legalising assisted suicide. This is not scaremongering, but a sobering reality’.

Meanwhile in Scotland, Patrick Harvie’s Assisted Suicide legislation has been knocked back by MSPs. Ms Leach added: ‘CARE has campaigned for human dignity ever since 1971. We have seen previous attempts to change the law in this country and, each time, God in his mercy has overruled. Our focus and aim now, for a heavy defeat of this latest attempt to legalise assisted dying. And Christians up and down the UK have a crucial role to play in standing with us in this fight’.

Highlighting a set of campaigning resources called Live and Let Live, available from CARE for free, she urged us to pray and contact our MPs, saying, ‘This is a slippery slope, which many critics argue is a cliché, but it is true nevertheless. If we open the door, no matter how many safeguards and limits we put in place, the likelihood of it being expanded is very high indeed’.

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