Shadow disability minister admits backing assisted suicide bill


The shadow disability minister has admitted that many disabled activists may be “horrified” and “outraged” to learn that she is in favour of legalising assisted suicide.

And she has hinted strongly that she will consider resigning from her post because of her position on legalisation, depending on the response from disabled people and their organisations.

Continuing efforts by the euthanasia lobby to persuade parliament to introduce a legal right for terminally-ill people to have medical assistance to kill themselves are fiercely opposed by much of the disabled people’s movement, who see the battle to prevent such a law as a key disability rights issue.

But in an interview with Disability News Service (DNS), Labour’s Kate Green said she had never hidden her support for legalisation, and had backed the bill put forward in the last parliament by the Labour peer Lord Falconer.

That bill will provide the model for the new assisted dying bill that has been introduced into the Commons by Labour MP Rob Marris, and which will be debated by MPs on 11 September.

Green said: “I’m in favour of the concept. Assuming it’s going to be similar to the one [brought forward by Lord Falconer]that was debated in the Lords in the last parliament.”

She made it clear that she did not accept any of the key arguments put forward by disabled opponents of legalisation, such as the campaigning organisation Not Dead Yet UK, whose most high-profile member is the disabled crossbench peer Baroness [Jane] Campbell.

One of the key concerns about legalising assisted suicide, from organisations such as Not Dead Yet UK, is that it will not be possible to secure safeguards that will protect all disabled people, particularly from asking for an assisted suicide when they do not want to die.

Green said she accepted that “humans can never get everything right”, but that she had “no reason to believe that it is not” possible to draw up safeguards that would ensure no-one died unnecessarily.

She added: “If I’m not satisfied that we have been able to come up with legislation that provides those safeguards, naturally I won’t support it. I don’t want a single unnecessary or unwanted death.”

But she said that if the bill became law, and she was wrong, and those safeguards failed, she “will live with being wrong but true to my beliefs”.

Many disabled activists have highlighted what they say is the absurdity – and the danger – of seeking to legalise assisted suicide when disabled people still do not have the right to live independently.

But Green denied that it would be reckless to even consider introducing an assisted dying bill before there was a right to independent living.

She said: “I don’t make that assumption as being necessarily the case. They are equally valid and both have to be done, in my view.”

She added: “You don’t stop advancing on one agenda because another agenda is on a different part of the journey.

“I don’t see the assisted dying legislation as the kind of immediate threat that [some disabled people]are suggesting it would be.”

She said that she would not rule out backing a legal right to independent living, and that Labour – before the general election – had “signalled we would wish to secure that right, and if legislation was one of the things that it took then had I become the minister for disabled people I would have wanted to continue those discussions”.

She said: “My personal priority is to secure independent, dignified lives for disabled people.”

Green also dismissed fears that severe funding pressures in the NHS would make an assisted suicide law even more dangerous for disabled people.

She said: “It would certainly create a context for it. I don’t know that it would make it harder, because these decisions are going to be acute and rare and they will not be taken lightly or without engagement from a lot of people.

“There will be a multiplicity of components [to the process of securing an assisted suicide]and [all of the people involved]would all need to collectively [take]a decision.”

Green said her decision to back legalisation was due to “personal experience” as well as “some of the conversations with people who have seen loved ones die very painfully, very unhappily and distressingly and where there have been open conversations in the family in which that individual has wanted to be assisted to end their life and it hasn’t been possible”.

She said: “It’s a huge conscience issue, it’s not a political issue. It’s very much about people’s sense of what’s right.”

Green also insisted – as have Marris and Lord Falconer and many of their supporters – that the assisted dying bill was “not about disabled people” but was about “terminally-ill adults who make fully competent decisions”.

When DNS asked Green whether she believed that all terminally-ill people were also disabled people, she said she would “have to think very carefully about that before I answer it”.

Green also said she did not “readily accept” the so-called “slippery slope” argument, which warns that even if assisted suicide was legalised for a small section of people – such as terminally-ill people told they have less than six months to live – it would inevitably be widened out to other groups.

Opponents of legalisation point to the situation in Belgium, where people with autism, anorexia, borderline personality disorder, chronic fatigue syndrome, and manic depression have all been given an assisted suicide.

But Green said: “I don’t think I can draw any conclusions at all from Belgium about what might happen at some point in the future in relation to legislation that we haven’t got yet in the UK.”

Green insisted that although she might be “out-of-step with a number of organisations, I am also aware that I will be in-step with the feelings of many, many individuals”.

She said: “My job is to be in what I believe in my conscience is the right place to be.”

And she said she had no current intention of resigning from her role as shadow minister for disabled people over her support for legalisation of assisted suicide.

She said: “I have no intention of not continuing unless and until it becomes clear to me that I should not do so. That is not my feeling now.”

She said that disabled people “may be horrified, people may be outraged” when they learn of her position on assisted suicide.

But she said: “They are entitled to feel what they feel.”

She added: “I would like to hear direct from disabled people and from organisations… in order that I can assess the range of views and how people feel about this and the concerns that they have.

“I have no intention of not continuing unless and until it becomes clear to me that I should not do so. That is not my feeling now.”

In response to Green’s interview with DNS, Baroness Campbell said she would seek an urgent meeting with her “in order to explore, in more detail, why this proposed assisted suicide legislation is such a threat to disabled people’s safety, feelings of self-worth and right to equality”.

Ellen Clifford, a member of the steering group of Disabled People Against Cuts, said: “Kate Green’s support for the assisted dying bill reflects a lack of commitment towards the principles of choice and equality for disabled people.

“The question of assisted suicide is often mistakenly viewed as being about personal choice. It isn’t. It is a deeply political question concerning the right to live for an oppressed group of people.”

  • User Ratings (5 Votes)
  • She should resign. How can a minister represent our interests if they support such eugenics as futher erosion of the laws which affect our equal right to life and living . our deaths, suicides and killings should be treated equally to everyone else’s under the law.

    In short. She doesn’t believe in our equality, therefore cannot represent us.

    Would love to hear others’ views on this matter

    • Me too – hoping to hear lots of views this week. What concerns me is that she just doesn’t understand how her support for the bill is incompatible with her role as shadow minister…

    • I suggest you READ and comprehend the bill rather that trot out the same lies and mistruths at best about the bill. there is protections against coercion and above all this bill only kicks in if you have less that 6 months of judged life left. I have watched too many people die of dehydration the standard death mostly in cancer suffers why do all of you say a dog has more rights to na pain free death than a human it makes me sick. So please read the bill rather that repeat lies i assure you 2 judges that have to review you before this would work would catch corrosion and cut the kill granny for her cash rubbishes it’s another lie.

      • The ‘dog’ analogy is frequently used, but misleading. Dogs have no say in whether or not they are put down. We have no idea whether they want to die or not. And often dogs are put down because their owners do not have the money to pay for their continued care. There is no NHS for dogs. There is no Canine Rights Act. Do we really want to move in a direction where people are treated more like dogs?

        • Fine i will give a example my mother died of dehydration thanks to the Liverpool care pathway the caring way to die for terminal cancer patients it was VILE she begged and begged for help ending her pain. I bet after watching someone you love scream in a unconscious state because of the pain even with the so called relief given by doctors. You should change your mind and let people choose to have their choice. Please explain how your views are more worthy and morals suddenly get twisted and compassion disappears to oh no you don’t have control over the one thing we cannot escape death as you’re advocating. If a person assists you die it’s a crime and killing yourself is seen as evil and bad, If this is morrols then i’m immoral.

          I am in chronic pain myself i need a ever increasing morphine dose to even move. I am currently coping but if i ever feel nope i cannot carry on it will be my choice to stop. But i am suddenly told i don’t have any choice about my body or death you or someone else can tell me how to live and die. I thought slavery was abolished maybe we should emphasize death?

          Can 1 person please explain how it’s better to die of dehydration a nasty death BTW but a quick painless death via overdose is unavailable?

          • James, I am so sorry to hear about what your mother went through, but surely that is a criticism of the Liverpool Care Pathway. There is no need for someone to die from dehydration. That’s not good palliative care. The question, though, is not about removing your rights, it’s about the impact on thousands of other disabled people if assisted suicide was legalised.

          • What i was pointing out was Doctors were willing to let people die ‘humanely’ like this but with real compassion with a overdose where you sleep and slip away that’s not humane it’s stupid and not sain. Now the standard pathway is to just let nature take it’s course dam the pain or suffering. Pain control is a bad joke here.

            I am merely stating everyone who campaigns for no euthanasia is saying they have more ‘Rights’ over say my body than i do! I am asking for choice heck let’s get a good safe compassionate law like in Utar and get compassion back in this hate filled country and make Britain great….

            I am Disabled and in Chronic pain i don’t worry about people pushing or coursing me, That’s a spurious argument like the no value comments. The only time i could see that happening is over money and maybe if we had compassion for people rather than conservative money is my god then disabled people would have worth and not be worried.

  • outinthecold

    Given that the Gvmnt believes in “behavioural change” – the infamous ‘nudge unit’ – I cant believe that this bill wont appeal on a multitude of levels to some nasty bastards with an eye on either the NHS budget or the welfare budget. Vulnerable people are already made to feel worthless and a burden. Before we have a right to a dignified death we should have a right to a dignified life, something we are often denied.

  • outinthecold

    “She [Kate Green] added: “I would like to hear direct from disabled people and from organisations… in order that I can assess the range of views and how people feel about this and the concerns that they have.
    (Extract from above)

    “She [Labour’s Siobhan McMahon] pointed out that not a single disability organisation supported assisted suicide.

    And she highlighted a Scope survey that found two-thirds of those surveyed believed disabled people were often seen as “a burden on society”, while three-quarters of young disabled people had experienced someone “explicitly making negative assumptions or comments about their quality of life in relation to their disability”. ”


  • Retired Nurse

    Falconer and Joel Joffe (who owns Hambro and ZurichLife insurance) have already been paid to get this through parliament for their chums in healthcare insurance – she should be made to resign – not a fit person!

    • Oh goody another GOD of healthcare who CARES about the best way of someone else dying oh don’t worry your little head there will be no pain. How about dealing with the lies your profession throws around endlessly like the liverpool care pathway the little thing that killed more people in hideously painful ways for the sake of compassion oh and cheap nursing…
      I am sick of medical people telling people how to die on their terms how about letting the person who is dying choose oh noes can’t do that can we. Hypocrite what makes you a expert on someone else’s life?

    • I know about Joel Joffe’s links with the insurance industry, but wasn’t aware of any links that Falconer has. Can you fill me in?