Legalising assisted suicide would mean the state “endorsing” NHS-funded deaths, at a time when just one-third of palliative care is government-funded, MPs have been warned.
Dr Matthew Doré, honorary secretary of the Association for Palliative Medicine of Great Britain and Ireland, said legalised assisted suicide would be state-funded while two-thirds of palliative care was still funded by charities.
He told the Commons health and social care committee: “That is the state essentially endorsing death while not funding and paying for palliative care.”
Dr Doré said legalisation was a “public safety” issue, because taking that step would “risk the wider majority of the population”.
He was giving evidence to the committee as part of its inquiry into assisted suicide.
He compared the proposed legalisation of assisted suicide to capital punishment, where people who were executed by the state were subsequently found to be innocent, despite a “full judicial process” that found them guilty “beyond reasonable doubt” following “months of deliberation” by the legal system.
Dr Doré pointed to diagnoses of motor neurone disease that had later proved to be wrong, and he said that research had suggested that one in five older people had been abused.
He told the committee: “There are going to be incorrect deaths. So… how many incorrect deaths justify… the right to pre-emptively kill yourself early?”
He also warned that legalisation would mean palliative care would become “subservient” to assisted suicide in hospices, as he said had happened in Canada with its Medical Assistance in Dying programme.
And he said that non-assisted suicides had risen sharply in the US state of Oregon after it legalised assisted suicide and “imbued in the culture” that “there are circumstances in which it’s not worth living”.
He added: “Laws are more than just rules. They send cultural messages.”
The committee also heard on Tuesday from Helen Whately, the minister for care, who repeated the government’s long-established position that any change in the law was “something for parliament to decide”.
She said: “It’s an issue of conscience for individual members of parliament.
“If the will of parliament is that the law on assisted dying should change, then government would not stand in its way.”
She said she was not aware of any government discussions about the potential implications of another part of the UK legalising assisted suicide, with Scotland, Jersey and the Isle of Man all apparently moving in that direction.
Picture: Not Dead Yet UK
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