The UK Mail online article refers to the long awaited assisted suicide bill promoted into the House of Lords by assisted suicide campaigner, Lord Falconer. It is highly critical of both the terminology and the intent.
New right to die bill sparks row as peers condemn 'Orwellian spin' and say it would not 'pass public safety test'
A new attempt to persuade MPs and peers to back a right-to-die law has been branded ‘Orwellian’ by one of the country’s leading lawyers.
Lord Falconer, the former Labour Lord Chancellor, wants to legalise ‘assisted dying’ for terminally ill patients.
But he has been accused of using ‘Orwellian spin’ by attempting to distinguish between ‘assisted suicide’ and ‘assisted dying’. Critics say there is no difference between the two.
Lord Alex Carlile QC, left, said the terms of Lord Falconer's, right, bill are based on 'euphemisms' and criticised an attempt to call doctors helping a patient to die as 'assisted dying' rather than 'assisted suicide'.
Among his critics was leading Liberal Democrat peer Lord Carlile, who said that giving doctors power to help terminally ill people to die ‘would not pass the public safety test’.
Lord Carlile, a prominent QC, said in a newspaper article: ‘Advocates of such a law tell us that they are not talking about suicide. They say that helping people who are terminally ill to end their lives is not assisting suicide because they are expected to die.
‘This is, of course, nonsense. In law, as in the English language, if you take your own life, whatever your state of health, that is suicide; and a doctor or anyone else who supplies you with the means to do so is assisting suicide.
‘Sound lawmaking demands clarity. It cannot be based on euphemisms, verbal evasions or Orwellian spin.’
Lord Falconer was also accused of exploiting the impact of right-to-die court cases involving terribly disabled people to win support for the proposal.
Critics said its timing had been ‘carefully planned’ to coincide with the hearing of the case of Paul Lamb, 57, a severely disabled former lorry driver, who is seeking permission for a doctor to kill him by lethal injection.
Jane Nicklinson, the widow of Tony Nicklinson, pictured together, will go to the Court of Appeal to fight for legal protection from murder charges for doctors if they help a patient die.
Dr Peter Saunders, a campaigner against euthanasia, said: ‘Lord Falconer is using the emotions generated by hard court cases, but his agenda is very dangerous for disabled and elderly people.’
Lord Falconer is planning to table his Private Member’s Bill before peers on Wednesday. It will allow adults with six months or less to live to request a doctor’s help to commit suicide, and supporters say it is bound around with safeguards to prevent abuse.
His Bill follows a report produced last year under his leadership which made a similar call for assisted suicide for the terminally ill. The report said help to die should be available for anyone with 12 months to live, but following widespread criticism that has been cut down to six months.
It will be the third Parliamentary attempt in seven years to legalise assisted dying. Peers rejected calls for legalisation in 2006 and 2009.
This week, judges in the Court of Appeal will begin hearing Mr Lamb’s case, and the case of a man known only as Martin, a victim of locked-in syndrome. Mr Lamb, who is quadriplegic, has taken over the claim of Tony Nicklinson, another locked-in syndrome victim, who died shortly after losing his case in the High Court last year.
Martin is claiming that assisted suicide laws – which set a maximum sentence of 14 years in jail for helping someone kill themselves – break Article Eight of the European human rights charter, which protects the right to privacy and family life.
Dr Saunders said: ‘The timing has been carefully planned. Off the back of media coverage of this case, Falconer, who is being backed by Dignity in Dying, the former Voluntary Euthanasia Society, will argue that his proposal is modest in comparison.
‘Lamb is not terminally ill and wants a doctor to give him a lethal injection. Falconer, however, is only asking for people who are terminally ill to have the right to receive help to kill themselves – assisted suicide.’
Dr Saunders added: ‘The last thing we need is a change in the law to put more pressure on people who already feel themselves to be a burden to others.’
Assisted suicide laws were effectively reformed without any Parliamentary vote by Keir Starmer, the director of public prosecutions, in 2010. Following instructions passed down in one of the last cases heard by the Law Lords, Mr Starmer issued guidelines that said no-one is likely to be prosecuted for helping someone to die if they are a family member or friend, rather than a professional, and if they act out of compassion and not greed.
Between 150 and 200 people are thought to have gone to the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland to be helped to commit suicide. But no family member who helped has ever been prosecuted.