Pitcher's article in the UK Telegraph is titled: Our two Lords leaping into a euthanasia review are like a pair of turkeys reporting on Christmas. Pitcher states:
I was on radio last week to argue against the two peers who have done most to introduce euthanasia legislation to the UK – Lord Falconer on BBC Radio 5 Live and Lord Joffe on BBC Radio Wiltshire.
Joffe, it seems to me, wants to replace the comprehensive (and independent) House of Lords report that accompanied his own euthanasia bills in 2005 with Falconer’s entirely bogus and just launched “Commission on Assisted Dying” (bogus because it’s simply a euthanasia campaign group in thin disguise). During the course of our radio conversation, Joffe accused me of “inventing” stories. I had just said that Holland euthanised those who could not ask for it, including new-born babies.
So I went back to the 2005 Joffe Report, which did most to blow Joffe’s bill out of the water, and there it was – Irene Keizer, a senior policy officer at the Dutch Ministry of Health, said this in evidence to the committee:
“There are some cases in which it is not careful euthanasia, but in most cases are people who are not able to make a request because they are not seen as being able to make a request – for instance, people who are suffering from a psychiatric disease or people who are in a coma. Also new born babies are not capable of making a request.”
There’s more than that, but the point here is that Lord Joffe accuses me of “inventing” evidence that was in the very House of Lords report that accompanied his own bill. Doesn’t fill you with confidence, does it?
Lord Falconer is a cannier old bird. He asked me on-air to give evidence to his “Commission”. This is schoolboy-level politics, but is nevertheless a cunning tactic. If I give evidence to his “Commission” I am granting it some credibility. If I refuse, then how can I object to its findings?
But its findings are already a done deal, of course. To recap: not only is Lord Falconer a well-known advocate of euthanasia, who has tried to introduce it into legislation in the Lords, but he is chairing the “Commission”. At the last count, nine of the 12 “Commission” members are on record as supporting some change in the law to allow some form of euthanasia in the UK (the remaining three are best described as neutral-to-wobbly, so there are no actual opponents of a change in the law here). The “Commission” is bankrolled by Sir Terry Pratchett, the novelist who believes those of infirm mind should be put to death, and sponsored by the death-on-demand lobbyists Dignity in Dying.
In what circumstances, exactly, is this bunch of euthanasia enthusiasts likely to come up with a report that says “Y’know, it turns out we were quite wrong and have changed our minds. Euthanasia is a wicked and ghastly institution and there’s no need for a change in the law.” No, it’s a bunch of like-minded people deciding that they’re right and publishing a report to “prove” it.
You’ve got to hand it to Falconer – he’s a chutzpah champion. This is the man, after all, who advised Tony Blair on the lawfulness of the Iraq war. Last week, as he launched his “Commission” he described it as “objective, dispassionate and authoritative” and even called it “independent”.
There is an alternative view and it’s this: No it isn’t. It’s like putting together a collection of turkeys to decide whether Christmas should be changed. Or asking the Belvoir Hunt whether the fox-hunting ban should be repealed. And asking Prince Charles to chair.
I know several peers have written to Lord Falconer asking him to consider his position. By parading the “Commission” as an exercise of the Lords, he is bringing it into disrepute. Since I’ve been asked to give evidence to his “Commission” I will be writing to him too. I will publish my letter here.