Call for support in fight against latest bid to legalise assisted suicide


newslatestThree leading campaigners are urging other disabled people and allies to join the fight to fend off the latest parliamentary attempt to legalise assisted suicide.

Baroness [Jane] Campbell, Sir Bert Massie and Dr Alice Maynard are among those disabled people who have already signed a new petition drawn up by the campaigning user-led organisation Not Dead Yet UK (NDY UK).

They believe that a new private member’s bill published by the Labour peer Lord Falconer poses a real threat to disabled people.

Sir Bert, the former chair of the Disability Rights Commission, said: “Experience from Holland and elsewhere demonstrate that assurances given by those who advocate assisted dying are worthless.

“Such a law threatens the lives and right to life of disabled people. As a disabled person, I oppose a change to the law.”

Baroness [Jane] Campbell – who has often been the public face of the NDY UK campaign to avoid any further weakening of the law – said she had signed the petition because she would “feel personally unsafe in a culture that officially sanctions killing people who are ill or have a progressive medical condition”.

She added: “This feeds in to the negative culture we seem to have regarding disability or terminal illnesses. What about supporting assisted living first before considering assisted dying?”

Maynard, chair of Scope and director of the consultancy Future Inclusion, added: “As disabled people, we value our own lives and love living. But we know there are many who don’t value us, and believe our lives are not worth living.

“We need to be protected from those who have the power to end our lives, or persuade us to do so, because we are not worth it.”

NDY UK was formed more than 10 years ago to campaign against an assisted suicide bill proposed by the Labour peer Lord Joffe.

Lord Joffe repeatedly failed in his attempts to persuade parliament to pass various versions of his bill.

Lord Falconer has also made a series of attempts to persuade parliament to relax the law on assisted suicide.

Now he is trying again, with a new private member’s bill that would aim to make it legal for doctors to help end the lives of those they judge to be terminally-ill with less than six months to live, if asked for such assistance.

His assisted dying bill is set to be re-tabled in the new parliamentary year, which starts next month, and debated before the summer recess.

NDY UK believes it would be “unacceptably dangerous” to make it legal for one individual to help end the life of another, because it would be impossible to introduce effective safeguards.

The petition says there is clear evidence from countries where the process has been legalised that people are being assisted to die when they are not terminally ill, and that when this happens “it is often to disabled people”.

NDY UK fears that people can be led to “perceive themselves as a burden”, particularly at a time when support services are being cut, which may contribute to a decision to ask for their lives to be ended.

The organisation believes that society’s priority should be “a positive approach to the lives of disabled people”, which means “appropriate support for living and an accessible environment”.

Its members say that disabled people have been hit harder than many by the recession, which “gives us the clear message that our rights and opportunities are low priority when times get hard”, while it warns that assisted suicide is often linked to the costs of supporting disabled people.

The NDY UK petition asks the prime minister, David Cameron, to “encourage all parliamentarians” to oppose a change in the law in order to “protect disabled and vulnerable people”.

22 May 2014