Friday, July 16, 2021

Disability advocates say Assisted Dying Bill poses significant dangers for disabled people

Press release from the APPG for Dying Well - July 16, 2021

Disability advocates say Meacher’s Bill poses significant dangers for disabled people - Founder of Not Dead Yet UK, Baroness Jane Campbell

Founder of Not Dead Yet UK, Baroness Jane Campbell of Surbiton, leads an organisation of disabled people and individuals with progressive and terminal medical conditions campaigning against a change in the law on assisted suicide. Speaking to the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Dying Well, Baroness Campbell argued that in countries where assisted suicide has been legalised, disabled individuals who are identified as potential beneficiaries of an assisted death do not receive the equal right to live with dignity and respect. A change in the law, she said, is “far too dangerous” without greater state investment in support for disabled individuals “not only to live or survive, but to thrive”.

Baroness Jane Campbell
Baroness Campbell continued, “We respect, and we understand so well from our own experience, why some individual disabled and terminally ill people want the right for someone to assist them to end their life. But, contrary to popular belief, this is not the general view held by the majority of people with lived experience of progressive medical conditions. They tell me, until such time that disabled and terminally ill people have enough support to thrive with dignity in society, we cannot contemplate a bill that has the opposite effect.”

During the online meeting chaired by Danny Kruger MP and Baroness Campbell, three presenters, all of whom are disabled, questioned whether the proposed assisted dying legislation stands up to public safety standards.

Dr. Miro Griffiths, a Research Fellow at the University of Leeds, discussed the legalisation of assisted suicide in light of the social injustice and marginalisation experienced by disabled people, which has been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic. He stated, “My argument is that it is not a safe time to be introducing this bill because of the historical legacy of injustice experienced by disabled people, but also because currently we are going through a pandemic which has exacerbated the marginalisation experienced by disabled people.”

Dr. Peter Scott Morgan, a leading robotics and AI scientist living with late-stage ALS, showcased his avatar which has given him back his ability to speak and express himself. As someone with severe Motor Neuron Disease who was given less than six months to live nearly four years ago, he invited the APPG to question “the apparently self-evident truth that, with an untreatable condition such as late stage Motor Neuron Disease (MND), with someone diagnosed as being within six months of death, there is no reasonable expectation that the patient can not only survive, but thrive, for many years with an increasing quality of life.”

Dr Scott Morgan stated his opposition against the legalisation of assisted dying, referring to “uncertainty between being terminal and simply being disabled, and danger that some with extreme disability may unnecessarily kill themselves in anticipation of what they incorrectly believe will inevitably happen”.

Chair of the Research Institute for Disabled Consumers, Philip Friend, raised further concerns that the Meacher Bill contains inadequate safeguards, opening the door to significant dangers for disabled people. Addressing parliamentarians, he urged, “it is our concern that you should not focus on personal choice or personal morality, but focus on public safety. This has to be the primary consideration in all letters, all legislation. What we want you to do is to help disabled people to thrive, not to die.”


Notes to Editors

The APPG for Dying Well has the support of more than 70 MPs and Peers including: the former Conservative Party leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith MP; disability rights campaigners Baroness Campbell; Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson; and Lord Alton; former Labour Minister Stephen Timms MP; former Leader of the Liberal Democrats Tim Farron MP; former BMA president Baroness Hollins and more than 60 other cross-party parliamentarians.

For media inquiries, please contact:

Alistair Thompson

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