Empty shoes highlight mortal danger of Falconer’s bill


newslatestDisabled activists say they have “no choice” but to attend a protest outside the House of Lords to demonstrate their opposition to a bill that seeks to legalise assisted suicide.

Lord Falconer’s assisted dying bill returns to the Lords for the start of its committee stage tomorrow (Friday), with peers set to begin debating the proposed legislation line by line.

Protesters from Not Dead Yet UK (NDY UK) were planning to place empty shoes and wheelchairs outside parliament, to represent the lives that could be lost if assisted suicide was legalised.

They were hoping to show the strength of opposition to the bill, which would make it legal for doctors to help end the lives of those they judge to be terminally-ill, if the individual requests such help.

Dennis Queen, one of the organisers of the protest, said the bill was “of crucial importance” to disabled people’s lives.

She said: “This bill has not been drafted by the people it relates to or asked for by the people it relates to. It is a bill that would allow other people to kill us. We haven’t asked for this.”

Actor, performer and activist Liz Carr said disabled people had “no choice but to protest”.

She said: “We have to show the Lords, the public and the media that disabled people do not want to give doctors the power to end our lives.

“We do not want the state-sanctioned killing of old, ill and disabled people of all impairments… We want support to live, not to die.”

NDY UK said it did not believe that the safeguards proposed in the bill were adequate.

An NDY UK spokeswoman said: “Not Dead Yet UK believes that when people ask to be assisted to die, this is often in isolation and before everything possible has been done to alleviate their situation in terms of medical, social and emotional support.

“Fears for the future are the most common reasons for a person to request assisted suicide.”

Sian Vasey, another leading disabled activist, added: “Many of us need support with our daily routine, washing, dressing, continence and going to the loo but this in no way affects our well-being, or diminishes our dignity.

“We get the help we need, but we have had to fight hard to get it.

“Those who develop terminal and disabling conditions later on in life often find it impossible to grapple with the social care system.

“It is a tragic fact that this is a primary cause of such people wanting to end their lives prematurely.”

When Lord Falconer’s bill was last before the Lords, for its second reading, in July, 133 peers spoke during a marathon debate, with roughly half appearing to back the new bill.

Scores of disabled people protested against the bill outside the Lords in July, with a much smaller number supporting it. Disabled activists are hoping to repeat the success of that protest tomorrow.

6 November 2014