Leading disabled activists have issued a “call to arms” to disabled people to fight off new attempts to weaken the law on assisted suicide.
They warned that MPs and peers were already planning a fresh bid to legalise assisted suicide through a private members’ bill.
The call came at the launch of the new Resistance campaign by the disabled people’s network Not Dead Yet UK (NDY UK).
Among the disabled people’s organisations backing the campaign at its launch in Westminster were the United Kingdom Disabled People’s Council, RADAR and the National Centre for Independent Living (NCIL).
Every MP will be asked to sign the new Resistance Charter 2010, which opposes a change in the law, calls for equal legal protection for disabled and terminally-ill people, and pledges to support their access to the palliative care and independent living services they need.
Supporters of the campaign can sign an online petition calling on MPs to sign the charter.
Baroness [Jane] Campbell, convenor of NDY UK, told the launch event that MPs and peers were “definitely” preparing to introduce a new private members’ bill to weaken the law, and warned: “I can almost say with certainty that one will come in this parliament.”
She added: “It is tough on disabled people to have to fight yet again for their survival and their support. We want assistance to live, not assistance to die.”
And she issued a “call to arms” to disabled people to persuade their MPs to sign the charter. She said disabled people needed to be “more visible, more vocal and more active” in telling British society that they do not want the law to change.
She also fiercely criticised large sections of the media over its coverage of the assisted suicide debate, and said they were “very used to colluding in our misery, our discomfort and our unhappiness”.
There have been two attempts to legalise assisted suicide in the past four years at Westminster, with another bill currently being discussed by the Scottish parliament.
Mike Smith, chair of NCIL, said the campaign to weaken the law was driven by fear.
He said the many new MPs who have been elected for the first time would not yet be aware of the complexity of the issues around assisted suicide, which was “why this campaign is so important”.
Campaigners say the high-profile disabled people who have tried to have the law changed – including Diane Pretty and Debbie Purdy – are “the exception rather than the rule”.
The event was funded by the anti-euthanasia campaign alliance Care Not Killing, which also launched a new DVD, which includes the personal stories of disabled people arguing for their right to life.
To sign up to the campaign, visit: www.theresistancecampaign.org.uk
3 June 2010