Sunday, September 9, 2012

UK MP challenges assisted suicide comment by the British Junior Health Minister

For those who follow the issue of euthanasia and assisted suicide, you would have noticed that Anna Soubry, the newly appointed Junior Minister for Health suggested that the assisted suicide law in the UK may need to be changed because of the number of British citizens who are dying at the Dignitas suicide clinic in Switzerland.

Nadine Dorries, the Conservative MP from Mid Bedfordshire in the UK responds, in an interesting and strong manner to challenge the remarks by Soubry but also to seek a clarification of the UK government official position.

Link to the original article. The article follows. 

Nadine Dorries
By Nadine Dorries - Daily Mail - September 9, 2012

You would think that the first job of a newly appointed Minister would be to spend time conquering their brief, and honing the arguments necessary to defend Government policy.

Not Anna Soubry, Minister for Health.

Within three days of her appointment, Soubry gave an interview proclaiming her support for a change in the law to allow assisted suicide to take place in the UK. That is, to legally facilitate someone asking a doctor to help them to take their own life, and for that doctor or individual to be free from prosecution for doing so.

She said: ‘I think it’s ridiculous and appalling that people have to go abroad to end their life instead of being able to end their life at home.’

In that one sentence, Ms Soubry displayed a profound ignorance of the vulnerable position many of the disabled, elderly and chronically sick would find themselves in should she get her way.

I am sure many people would have hoped that a new Health Minister would become familiar with cutting-edge palliative care concepts, such as the Liverpool Care Pathway.

The fact that in her first public utterance she prioritised enabling people to end their life is alarming.

Baroness Jane Campbell
Not Dead Yet - UK
If Soubry had taken a few days to do her homework, she would have realised that in recent years, assisted dying has been debated and rejected by Parliament multiple times and that only around one in five people die in their own home.

Every disability rights campaign group is vehemently opposed to legalising assisted suicide.

Coming as the Paralympics reach a glorious end, Soubry’s timing seems particularly insensitive.

In 2010, Keir Starmer, Director of Public Prosecutions, relaxed the law  in order to allow relatives to take loved ones abroad without fear of prosecution. Since then, the number of people wishing to travel and take their own life has not increased. So who is Soubry speaking for?

Today, there are many elderly and disabled people who sometimes feel they are a burden on those who care for them. However, they take comfort from knowing they are protected by the law.

The thought process of considering whether or not to ask a doctor to take their life is simply not facilitated.

It is not difficult to imagine, should euthanasia become legal, how abuse could occur. How people could be made to subtly feel as though they are an inconvenience or a burden.

For many, the next of kin is not even a person, but the State. A hospital or a care home. Not everyone has loving relatives to protect them. Some have not-so-loving relatives keen to inherit.

Many people are alone and depend on protection from the NHS. In a poor economic climate with rising NHS costs, the option to die could very quickly become a duty to die.

The British Medical Association debated and resoundingly rejected a change to the law and reaffirmed the position of doctors across the UK –that it is never right for a doctor to actively kill a patient, however sick or disabled – and they have done this for a number of reasons.

Doctors train to make people better, not kill. They are wary that under challenge, should a case to sue a  doctor come to court, the law may not fully protect them. Each case would be fraught with subjective argument.

Doctors simply do not want politicians to put them in a position of professional vulnerability and you would be hard pushed to find a doctor, unless his name was Harold Shipman, happy to administer a lethal cocktail.

The Liberal Democrat Conference will be debating and voting on a proposal to change the law in a way that would delight Soubry. The Lib Dems are the only political party to support euthanasia.

This makes Soubry’s announcement suspicious. It was breathtakingly audacious, and her position is at odds with most Conservative MPs. It is hard to believe that she made her proclamation in the media so quickly and in such a high profile way without support from No 10.

Is David Cameron using Soubry to endorse what he wishes to become Government policy? Soubry is a Health Minister. Ministers don’t do things by accident.

At this point, it is worth recalling former Lib Dem MP Evan Harris, who, like Soubry, ran endless pro-abortion and pro-euthanasia campaigns when he was in Parliament.

In 2005, Harris had an enormous majority of almost 8,000 in his Oxford seat. His voters showed what they thought of his views when they ejected him at the last Election.

Soubry had a majority of 389 two years ago. It is quite likely that at the next Election she will suffer the same fate as Evan Harris.

However, her comments have damaged the Conservative Party, not just her seat. The public distrust politicians with an unseemly interest in ending life, either of the unborn or the frail.

Ms Soubry was not the only new arrival at the Department of Health last week. Jeremy Hunt, who is a good and sincere man, was appointed as Health Secretary, her boss.

Next week, post Paralympics, I sincerely hope he will undo the damage Soubry has done by publicly denouncing her views and reassuring the sick, elderly, vulnerable and disabled that their lives are safe in his hands.

The call to legalise assisted suicide from the occasional patient, despite the media hype surrounding it, cannot be used to threaten the security of the vulnerable majority.

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