Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Scotland assisted suicide bill discriminates against people with disabilities.

Kevin Fitzpatrick
By Dr Kevin Fitzpatrick OBE
Spokesperson - Not Dead Yet UK Campaign.

An online news service has claimed that Scotland is set to introduce the ‘most robust’ assisted suicide legislation yet (Sputnik, Dec 29, 2014). Nonsense.

Scotland’s previous attempts at legalising someone else to intervene in another’s death by causing that dying person’s final end, have been amongst the weakest, most flawed to appear in any legislature.

The current Bill is just as bad as any seen in Scotland previously. It continues to include ‘people with progressive life-shortening conditions’ – thus it exposes pretty nearly every significantly disabled person to the threats inherent in it. It sets a 14 day limit from decision to death: a perilously thin time in which to detect and treat depression. It removes any question of crimes being committed in ‘assisting’ or pressing someone to commit suicide – as long as the assister claims ‘I acted out of compassion’ they will be free of investigation. But saying does not make it so.

The Bill contains all the other flaws of proposed and in other jurisdictions, enacted laws. The simple truth is that we can never legislate in advance for ‘pure compassion’ because there is no such thing, even in well-meaning people who give assistance. It is no more robust than any other law, proposed or already in force. And it is disingenuous to pretend otherwise.

The lie is that there will be ‘safeguards’. The overwhelming evidence from around the world is that such laws do exactly the opposite of what their proponents claim: it removes choice from patients, placing it in the hands of the minority of doctors who are willing to move from protecting life to furnishing the means to take it.

77% of GPs do not want a change in law, and the profession’s royal colleges all reject the move. Assisted suicide/euthanasia is never a medical decision: it comes when medicine says ‘we have nothing left – there is no more we can do’. Most doctors recognise that a change in law forces them into the position of ‘higher moral judges’ and they know they cannot be that superior just because they are doctors. It risks trampling on their own human rights, not to be involved. It leaves patients who form such suicidal wishes to ‘shop around’ amongst the remainder who are willing. We are left to wonder whether these few can really epitomise ‘higher moral judgment’ in opposition to all their colleagues, whether they really ought to be practising medicine at all.

The Bill’s promoter in the Scottish parliament says the proposal will allow people to ‘[take] control of the end of their own life…demonstrat[ing] compassion and respect for each person's own choice…’. But if the person is a healthy, well-off family man with apparently ‘everything to live for’ the response will be very different to that offered to a significantly disabled person. Why? It is based in the attitude that a disabled life is not worth living. They constantly refer to the loss of bodily functions as the knock-down ‘indignity’ that demands we offer the sufferer the final solution: death. If that were true, there would be a queue miles long of disabled people who manage incontinence daily.

This attitudinal response is fundamentally based on one thing: non-disabled people saying to disabled people ‘Of course we understand you want to die. We would too in your place. So it is our duty to help you to die.’ That is purely and simply, rank discrimination against disabled people.

It should not even require special pleading but that is what we are faced with: hoping that most other non-disabled people will see our disabled lives for what they are, and value us equally first and foremost as human beings like any other. It should go without saying that non-disabled people deciding that disabled people can be candidates for elimination is the worst kind of disability discrimination. It is a moral judgment on the worth of our lives, and it is fatal.

Do not let anyone, doctor or politician hoodwink you into thinking any differently. Just because someone says they are acting out of compassion is no guarantee that they are. And with all the pressures doctors face, on top of the usual gamut of hard decisions daily living throws at them, they are pushed to make such decisions to end lives by the fatal flawed logic that killing the sufferer is the only way to end their suffering. 
As I said: Nonsense.

Kevin Fitzpatrick is the Director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition International. This article was written as the Spokesperson - Not Dead Yet UK Campaign.

Previous articles by Kevin Fitzpatrick:

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