Baroness Jane Campbell of Surbiton, disability advocate, convenor of NotDeadYet UK and British Peer argued brilliantly in the House of Lords recently against any relaxation of guidelines on prosecutions for assisted suicide in Britain. Her argument holds true for euthanasia also.
This report from the The Telegraph:
Recession has heightened euthanasia 'danger' to disabled and elderly, claims peer
Hostility towards disabled and elderly in wake of recession means it would be a ‘dangerous time’ to consider changing law no assisted suicide, says Baroness Campbell
By John Bingham, Social Affairs Editor
The threat to frail elderly and disabled people from relatives tempted to get rid of them under the guise of euthanasia has grown “dramatically” in the wake of the economic downturn, one of Britain’s most prominent disability campaigners has claimed.
Baroness Campbell of Surbiton, who suffers from a degenerative illness, issued an impassioned plea in the House of Lords against moves to further relax Britain’s laws on assisted suicide.
She said that it was a “dangerous time” to consider any change.
She argued that part of the legacy of the long economic downturn and austerity programme had been a serious hardening of attitudes towards vulnerable members of society.
Pensioners and disabled people are routinely branded “scroungers” or accused of being a “burden” and in some cases suffering open abuse and even attacks, she said.
In such an atmosphere, relaxing the law on assisted suicide would be like an open invitation to those with something to gain from pressurising them into ending their lives, she insisted.
Her comments came during a Lords debate on the current guidelines on prosecuting people who assist loved-ones to take their own life.
The guidelines drawn up by the former Director of Public Prosecutions Sir Keir Starmer four years ago signal that people who assist a loved one to take their own life out of compassion are unlikely to be prosecuted.
Later this year peers are also due to debate a private member’s bill tabled by Lord Falconer, the Labour former Lord Chancellor, to legalise so-called “assisted dying” in Britain for the first time.
Baroness Jay, the Labour peer, who tabled the debate on the prosecution guidelines, argued that the current law is “ambiguous”.
She said the rules could be exploited by people who lie to police about a relative’s intentions after they have apparently taken their own life.
But Baroness Campbell, who suffers spinal muscular atrophy, argued strongly against any steps allowing doctors or nurses to help people take their own lives.
She said she and others had successfully resisted a proposal to make the fact that someone suffers a progressive condition or disability a factor weighing against prosecution for assisted suicide.
But she added: “Terminally ill and disabled people are in a worse position today than was the case five years ago.
“National economic instability means that public support services are under more pressure than ever.
“That has hardened public attitudes towards progressive illnesses, old age and disability.
"Words such as ‘burden’, ‘scrounger’ and ‘demographic time bomb’ come to mind, and hate crime figures in relation to vulnerable people have increased dramatically.
“This is a dangerous time to consider facilitating assistance with suicide for those who most need our help and support.
“It is not only dangerous for those who may see suicide as their only option, but can be tempting for those who would benefit from their absence.”
The British Social Attitudes Survey, the biggest barometer of public opinion in the UK, recently showed how, in marked contrast to previous recessions, attitudes towards welfare have hardened noticeably during the past few years.
The peer added: “Belgium has recently extended its law on euthanasia to include terminally ill and disabled children.
“That is not a future I want for our children or the most vulnerable, and this House has made it clear that it shares that view.”