Letter to The Times by Better Way spokesman Dr Miro Griffiths:
Sir – In arguing for an assisted suicide law in the UK (Why I changed my mind about assisted dying, Friday 15 September), Janice Turner overlooks several issues that have led UK politicians to reject a law change as too dangerous in the past.
Ms Turner suggests a UK law will not see the abuses and expansion due to safeguards and a pledge by campaigners that they will “not lobby for ever-looser suicide rules”. A look at other jurisdictions shows safeguards have failed and been weakened. Abuses inevitably occur because no human system is free from error. UK politicians must ask if they are willing to risk irreversible abuses that necessarily affect the most vulnerable and marginalised people.
Despite what campaigners claim, pressure will be applied through the courts or legislative mechanisms to ease access to ‘assisted dying’. We’ve seen this in Canada, the US, European nations and even in Australia and New Zealand, which Ms Turner mentions. The idea that the UK would be different is unrealistic. Politicians considering a law change must realise that in backing ‘assisted dying’, they are opening a Pandora’s Box.
Ms Turner notes that in Benelux countries, a “blasé attitude to preserving life has led to a sharp rise in non-assisted suicide”. She appears to conclude that a UK law carving out an exception from suicide prevention for the terminally ill would not see such ill effects on wider attitudes to suicide, or suicide prevention. Experts in the UK do fear a negative impact, and have urged politicians to maintain a consistent, universal approach.
Finally, Ms Turner pictures ‘assisted death’ in the following way: “As his favourite music played, he drank a liquid which in minutes allowed him to leave the world happy with his human life”. Sadly, assisted suicide does not look like this in many cases. People can experience severe complications, including vomiting and seizures, and take hours and even days to die – whilst anguished loved ones watch on. Is this truly a ‘dignified death’?
There is a better way forward for our society. Other compassionate responses to suffering exist that do not pose profound dangers. We urge political leaders to champion these.
Dr Miro Griffiths, Leverhulme Research Fellow in Disability Studies, expert adviser, and spokesperson for the Better Way campaign