Campbell’s speech helps defeat assisted suicide bid


Four disabled peers have helped to defeat a move to weaken the laws on assisted suicide.
Lord Falconer, the former Labour Lord Chancellor, had tabled an amendment to the coroners and justice bill that would have legalised helping a terminally-ill person to travel to another country where assisted suicide is legal.
Lord Falconer said 115 people have travelled from the UK to the Swiss Dignitas clinic for an assisted suicide, but none of the cases had resulted in the prosecution of anyone helping them, leading to a “legal no-man’s land”.
His amendment was defeated by 194 votes to 141.
The disabled peer Baroness [Jane] Campbell told fellow peers that if the amendment became law “we turn the traffic lights from red to green on state-sanctioned assisted dying, albeit in another country”.
She said legalising assisted suicide in the US state of Oregon had “heightened the fear of disabled and terminally-ill people in America” rather than reducing it.
And she said the amendment “would place a new and invidious pressure” on disabled and terminally-ill people nearing the end of their lives. “Some will consider death as preferable to fighting for support to live with dignity.”
Three other disabled peers – Baroness Chapman, Baroness Masham and Baroness Wilkins – also voted against the amendment.
But the disabled peer Lord [Colin] Low supported the amendment, and said: “There is no way in which this amendment gives the slightest encouragement to anyone thinking of coercing the generality of disabled people into going abroad for an assisted death.
“It is a major act to go abroad in order to die with dignity. It is implausible to suggest that people can easily be conned into doing it.”
The debate came as a string of prominent disability rights activists signed an open letter attacking the amendment.
They included Lady Campbell, Liz Sayce, Julie Newman, David Morris, Mike Smith, Tara Flood, Rachel Hurst, Alice Maynard, Professor Colin Barnes and Dr Ju Gosling.
The letter said: “We know what is acceptable as disease or disability progresses, and for the huge number of us who say no to assisted suicide, it is because we fear the changing culture such an amendment would bring.
“We are scared now; we will be terrified if assisted suicide becomes state-sanctioned.”
And writing in the Daily Mail, Lady Campbell said that at least 15 peers had told her after the debate that her speech helped persuade them to vote against Lord Falconer’s amendment.
8 July 2009