Prue Leith’s troubling disregard for life

Dame Prue Leith has drawn criticism for saying that feeling like a burden is a ‘legitimate reason’ for a person to access assisted suicide.

In an interview with Piers Morgan, Leith was presented with stats showing 53% of people in Oregon cite ‘being a burden’ to family or caregivers as a reason they want to end their life.

She responded: “If you know you’re causing your family a lot of anxiety… and worry about you, and you are in either huge pain or not enjoying your life, then it is a valid reason”.

Challenged on the prospect of coercion, she admitted pressure could be placed on an ill loved one to end their life for inheritance or other reasons but said the risk of this is “quite small.”

Leith added: “I should be in control of my own life. [The idea that] somehow human life is so sacred, sacred to whom? It’s not sacred to me.”

These statements by Leith, a leading campaigner and supporter of ‘Dignity in Dying’, are revealing of the mindset held by assisted suicide activists.

People voicing concerns about being a burden deserve sympathy and support, not recognition that they are in fact a burden and help to commit suicide.

To play down or dismiss the existential crises faced by vulnerable people is troubling to say the least and suggests vulnerable people may meet similar attitudes under a UK law.

Ms Leith and other campaigners often dismiss evidence of dangers associated with ‘assisted dying’, as shown by her comment that coercion is a “small” concern.

So-called ‘safeguards’ have failed, or been dispensed with quickly in other jurisdictions, demonstrating that there are no real guarantees against abuse.

The only true safeguard against injustice is keeping doctor-assisted suicide off the statute book, and affirming ethical care of people at the end of their lives.

The last comment by Leith, whose MP son is ironically a leading opponent of assisted suicide, is perhaps the most troubling: ‘human life is not sacred’.

The campaign for ‘assisted dying’ in the UK, and around the world, depends on cheapening the value of human life. If seriously ill lives are deemed not worth living, they can be ended.

In time, others groups of people would become eligible for assisted death, by the same token: disabled people’s lives aren’t worth living, they can be ended too.

This regressive argument is one of the main reasons why the Better Way campaign was founded, and why it will go on opposing assisted suicide legislation.

We believe that all people, regardless of who they are, and what they are facing in life, are imbued with inherent dignity and ought to be respected and protected.

Assisted suicide runs contrary to this right stance.