Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Scotland debates independence, the UK debates assisted suicide.

By Dr Kevin Fitzpatrick is the Director of EPC - International and a leader of the disability rights group - Not Dead Yet - UK.

Dr Kevin Fitzpatrick
Today’s ‘great debate’ in the UK is: Should Scotland vote for independence? This is an emotional discussion with many practicalities to be unpacked, many complex arguments, political, financial, cultural, for a general public to understand. Both sides throw up what, in general translation, Socrates calls ‘bogeys’, trying to strike enough fear with the use of horrific examples, to sway people to vote your way. Scotland will vote, and whether the Yes campaign wins or loses, by a very slim margin as looks likely, there is a sense that things have already changed, forever.

The debate on euthanasia and assisted suicide is similar. Except for one crucial difference.

One side, the pro-euthanasia lobby, bombards public consciousness with dreadful, painful cases for knee-jerk, ill-considered reactions based on emotion not rationality. The opposition to legalising euthanasia or assisted suicide, point to what is actually happening – but our under-resourced voices are drowned out by the wealthy lobby, and the terrible imbalance from the media.

We keep trying to make clear the many aspects of our side of the debate to a sleep-walking public: who are constantly being drip-fed through mainstream media. ‘Cuts leave many elderly people with no care’ is the headline ‘buried’ on page 25 of The Independent on Sunday (14 Sept 2014).

Being assessed as having ‘low’ or ‘moderate’ needs results in 9 out of 10 Local Authorities in England no longer offering support to people with their social care, needs such as: daily living requirements like help with washing, dressing. Without social care there is little or no access to a social life. Human contact becomes one or two 15 minute visits from carers. Half a million people no longer qualify for care and are left to struggle on as best they can.

Practices in Belgium for example, highlight the effect of removing social care - more and more people choose death, one way or another.

In the absence of social care, life becomes a struggle. Many people ‘choose’ death as the only way out, which of course is no choice at all. Pushed into a corner, told you have nothing to look forward to except misery, but then feeling the "comforting arm" of a ‘professional’ and the media ‘normalizing suicide’ - it makes it almost impossible to resist the ‘final solution’ which will save your family more grief or pressure.

Even ‘professionals’ like the Minister for Care Liz Kendall, describe it as ‘false economy’ to fail to support people. The non-profit organisations, whose raison d’être is to support you, say the same thing, that the withdrawal of care is shocking, yes, and that it makes ‘no economic sense’ (Director Caroline Abrahams Age UK) as these vulnerable people will often end up in fuller, exponentially more expensive care.

Here we have another example of the simple human truth that money, resources, drive public policy and that laws can never provide safeguards. The Care Act which received Royal Assent in May 2014 is supposed to guarantee that Local Authorities provide care in order to avoid greater care costs later. Cuts to care undermine this. With increasing numbers of people over 85 – more and more people made vulnerable – younger people with disabilities – leads to more unbearable pressure. The Care Act is supposed to ‘protect’ carers as well as those they care for, yet the new eligibility criteria has simply made most people, except those with the most severe care needs,
ineligible for care, which leads to a greater proportion of people ending up with severe care needs.
The cheap alternative to care is – a few quid for a lethal injection. The ‘economics make sense’. I have, at times, been roundly dismissed for linking the reduction in care to the final ‘solution’, and to many other jigsaw pieces which reveal a complete picture. But dismissing this clear and present link, by those who constantly shout that there will be safeguards in legislation to allow assisted suicide or euthanasia, is mind-boggingly naïve, or simply disingenuous. If it is the latter then it is also somewhat sinister. What does intentionally misleading others amount to? I will leave that question open for you, the reader.

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