Assisted Dying Bill Reject (UK)

By September 10, 2015 Recent News

This assisted dying bill is unsafe and unworkable – parliament must reject it
The Guardian 8 September 2015
I was born with spina bifida, and have been a wheelchair user for 46 years. One thing that has always surprised me is how many people throughout that period have said to me, “It’s so sad you’re in a wheelchair,” and even at times, “You must have thought of killing yourself.” These comments are as infuriating as they are ridiculous. I’ve had ups and downs, like most people, in my personal and professional life. But I value those – and it is disappointing that others sometimes don’t.
I fear that the MP Rob Marris’s assisted dying bill, which will get its second reading in parliament on Friday, would exacerbate the assumption that because there may some things I cannot do, everything must be negative. The prospect of changing the criminal law on encouraging and assisting suicide, as this bill would do, fills me with dread.
It raises legal and ethical issues that have been debated for many years – yet to which I had given little consideration until I entered parliament in 2010. During a number of debates in the Lords, I heard a range of experts on the topic and now have a clear and informed view.
Many people wonder why disabled people are so concerned about a bill that appears to affect only people thought to have less than six months to live. But many disabled people have fluctuating conditions, with improvements and setbacks; and some at times could meet this rather hazy definition, even if they subsequently move outside it.
My colleague Jane Campbell, for instance, who has spinal muscular atrophy, has written about being told throughout her life to expect to die shortly. She is now in her 50s. Disabled people also have a stronger understanding than most about what it means to feel you are a burden to others, or to have assumptions made about the value of your life. Many of us are very familiar with the strengths and weaknesses of the NHS and view the prospect of doctor-assisted suicide, as proposed in Marris’s bill, with scepticism.