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Assisted suicide – Bill Second Reading

September 2015

On Friday 11 September the Assisted Dying Bill, proposed by Rob Marris MP before the House of Commons rose for its summer recess will have its Second Reading.

During the summer representatives from disability rights organisations, including Silent Witness actress Liz Carr, delivered a letter to the Prime Minister at 10 Downing Street, seeking assurance of his support in a campaign against the Bill. Campaigners have warned MPs of the threat this legislation poses to disabled and vulnerable people. Particular concerns were expressed over the so-called ‘safeguards’, which opponents of the Bill say will not prevent disabled people from being coerced into ending their lives.

Fiona Bruce MP said, ‘People who feel suicidal deserve our compassion, care and support — not our encouragement to end their lives. Assisting their suicide is not a compassionate response to someone in the most difficult or vulnerable of life situations. If this Bill becomes law, no safeguard can protect someone who feels a burden to their family or the NHS from feeling pressurised — even if this is only internally — from asking for help to end their own life, against their own interests’.

The debate was given added urgency during early August with the suicide of Gill Pharaoh, a healthy 75-year-old. Christian Concern notes that Ms Pharaoh ‘was a geriatric care nurse who had spent years caring for the elderly. When she herself began to grow old, she decided that she didn’t want to go through what her patients had suffered, travelled to Switzerland, and passed away at an assisted dying clinic. She was not terminally ill. She didn’t want to be elderly and infirm’.

On his blog, Dr Peter Saunders (Christian Medical Fellowship) remarks that ‘choice is a two edged sword’, and the decision to kill oneself has an impact far beyond the person who dies. ‘Choice has limits and that is actually what this debate should be about — where those limits lie and why’.

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