Friday, January 9, 2009

UK director of prosecution appears to be lobbying for a change in the law and not defending the law.

Keir Starmer, the director of public prosecutions in the UK appears to be lobbying for change while not simply upholding the law in the UK.

Starmer is quoted as saying:
A change in the law could bring "greater clarity," but it was up to Parliament to decide on any amendment. ...

"The Daniel James case demonstrates that the current law is workable.

"If the law is changed it may bring greater clarity, but it's a matter of speculation as to what any change would be.

"Whether there is to be a change in the law is a matter for Parliament not for me."

It is correct for a director of public prosecutions to explain why he has made certain decisions, it is not correct for him to suggest that a change in the law would bring greater clarity.

Dr. Peter Saunders of the Care Not Killing Alliance told the Daily Mail that:
'Assisted suicide is a very serious crime and I don't think anybody should be lulled into believing it is all right to assist a suicide. Prosecution is at the discretion of the DPP.

'But we must be extremely aware of the risk of the slippery slope and of the influence of the very well orchestrated campaign for assisted suicide.'

'We have to be aware of the huge danger of people being pressured into feeling themselves a burden, and of people with disabilities putting pressure on their families to help them commit suicide.'

The sad reality about the case of Daniel James is that he lacked the support he needed to be re-assured of the value of his life, and not abandoned to his negative thoughts and depressive mood about his future. Daniel James was injured during a Rugby match, leaving him paralysed.

It is understandable that someone who has experienced significant paralysis will question their purpose in life, but when that person is re-assured and supported by a caring community that does not consider his/her life to be a burden, then they will usually change their mind.

James died too soon after his accident to be given the opportunity to realize that his life had hope.

Alison Davis, the leader of the disability rights group - No Less Human, is the prime example of the need for a supportive community.

Alison had attempted suicide several times and thought that she had no hope in her life. In time, she found a supportive community and she has proven that her life not only has value but that she could be incredibly productive and be happy.

Link to the article from BBC News:

Link to the article in the Daily Mail:


Julie James said...

Dr Saunders,I am the mum of Daniel James and am becoming increasingly annoyed at your untrue,unimformed,insulting and insensitive statements.You as every human, has a right to your own beliefs and religion,to your opinions,what you do not have ANY right to do is to state that our son lacked the support he needed or reassurance of the value of his life.Neither was he abandonded and left to his negative thoughts and depressive feelings!!!!Dr Saunders our son was in hospital for eight months,during that time we visited him every day,he had home cooked food every day,he had outside physio therapy,congulative therapy,cranio sacral therapy,he had cuddles and was told every day how very much he was loved,he knew how much he was loved.In our family the words I love you have always been spoken with ease and will continue to be.When Dan came out of hospital and returned to his home we didnt rely on full time carers although we could have done,Mark and I cared for Dan for the majority of the time,not because we had to but because he was our son and we wanted to.We prepared his dinner,got him into bed,placed his pillows,got his drinks ready,unwrapped his sweets, put his DVD ready and turned on the monitor so should he need us in the night we were there.As parents who loved their son absolutely and unconditionally we did everything we could to try and make Dans life the best it could be and would have happily done so for the rest of our lives!Ultimately Dr Saunders it wasnt Mark or I living our sons life,it wasnt you or a member of your family it was Dan.

If we as his parents who knew him inside and out,who knew what his life was and what it had become to him,if we could respect his decision that would break our hearts and forever leave us without the son we love so,so much,where in your arrogance do you feel you can pass judgement on Dan or ouselves.You call yourself a Christian,I am just me, my priority in life has only ever been to be a good mum to our children,to teach them to be kind,polite and think of others,to be their own person and to be happy doing whatever makes them happy.I have not courted media attention,the sound of my own voice or trying to force my own views on others I have been true to Dan and to myself and if you are a parent I can only hope that if your child left this world before you that you would want to be by their side whatever the circumstances.But then perhaps as the good christian you are you would rather they be on their own as it doesnt fit your beliefs.Who do you think is more Chritian Dr Saunders? I hope never to hear you pass comment on my son again!!!!And please dont consider yourself more of a christian than myself,my husband our dughters and all of our family and friends that have been there for,loved,encouraged and willed Dan to change his mind.Dan did not want to be an able bodied martyr,a disabled martyr he just wanted to be happy being Dan!I dont ask that you forgive my anger,as you dont deserve that,but that in future you consider your choice of words far more carefully..

Alex Schadenberg said...

Dr. Mark Mostert got it right when he stated these remarks on his disability matters blog on Monday, October 20, 2008

When Parents Think It’s OK To Help Kill Their Grown Children

Things in the UK are spinning out of control. Fast.

There’s something fundamentally wrong, and chilling, when parents think it’s ok to help their children die. It then reaches the realm of insanity when they’re willing to chatter on about it as if they should be up for some kind of humanitarian award.

Hard on the heels of multiple sclerosis sufferer Debbie Purdy petitioning Britain’s highest court to let her legally die via assisted suicide, the parents of Dan James have made the media rounds trumpeting their "compassionate" actions that facilitated their son being killed.

But, I’m getting ahead of myself.

Dan James had a lot to live for. At 23, he was a star junior international rugby player. By all accounts he was intelligent, funny, quirky, and in the prime of his youth.

In March 2007, he suffered a severe neck injury in a rugby training session and was left paralyzed from the chest down. He underwent several operations and spent eight months in a rehabilitation hospital before returning to his parents’ home.

Early in September this year, Dan died in Switzerland at an apartment run by the Swiss pro-death organization Dignitas.

Sidebar on Dignitas: They’ve been kicked out of at least one apartment when it became known that they were using the apartment to kill people. Undeterred, for a while they moved their operation to parking lots.

Assisted suicide in the back of a car.


Anyway, it was Dan’s parents who took him to Switzerland to die.

At 23.

Without a terminal illness.

Without, as far as I can tell, him being in excruciating and unbearable pain.

And they’re so proud of it, by golly.

Here’s what Dan’s mother, Julie, had to say in a piece in London’s Times, under the heading of “Why my son had the right to die”

Three weeks ago our son was at last allowed his wish of a dignified death in the Dignitas apartment in Zurich . . . He couldn't walk, had no hand function, but constant pain in all of his fingers. He was incontinent, suffered uncontrollable spasms in his legs and upper body and needed 24-hour care.

Dan had tried to commit suicide three times but this was unsuccessful due to his disability. His only other option was to starve himself.

Whilst not everyone in Dan’s situation would find it as unbearable as Dan, what right does any human being have to tell any other that they have to live such a life, filled with terror, discomfort and indignity, what right does one person who chooses to live with a particular illness or disability have to tell another that that they should have to.

A social worker in Britain alerted authorities to what had happened.

Julie James was not amused, observing that:

This person had never met Dan before or after his accident and obviously gave no consideration for our younger daughters who had seen their big brother suffer so much, and the day before had to say goodbye to him”

I hope that one day I will get the chance to speak to this lady and ask if she had a son, daughter, father, mother, who could not walk, had no hand function, was incontinent, and relied upon 24-hour care for every basic need and they had asked her for support, what would she have done?!

Perhaps it’s just me, but seeing death as the only option in these circumstances seems more self-serving than compassionate.

Julie James’ comments raise a host of concerns.

One: The culture of death is so entrenched in Britain that deathspeak flows naturally from ordinary citizens’ mouths: “right to die,” dignified death,” “unbearable” living, “a life filled with terror, discomfort and indignity.”

Two: The “you can’t judge me” argument. Really? Why not? Afraid some people might actually think taking your son to his death might be, heaven help us, wrong?

Three: The brutal finality of what they did, as if there were no other options. What Julie James was really saying was “Well, Dan just had to die because he wasn’t what he used to be. That’s how it should be, you know.”

Four: Earth to Mark and Julie James: There were tons of other options, beginning with the fact that in rehab he’d gotten a little movement back in his fingers. Dan’s hopelessness was understandable, but not inevitable. Nobody bothered, as far as I can tell, to establish, let alone treat, his obvious depression. The options go on and on.

Last two observations:

Maybe the saddest point of all: Had Dan had other parents, he might be with us today. Still funny, still intelligent, still quirky. Still enjoying the love and care of his family and friends.

The most macabre point of all?

I’m sure Dan’s two young sisters will live the rest of their lives knowing that if they ever end up like Dan, mom and dad will be waiting in the wings . . . .