Jul 052015

In 2012, thanks to an award from The Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowship, disabled actor and activist Liz Carr travelled to the then five countries where assisted suicide and/or euthanasia are legal ie Belgium, The Netherlands, Switzerland, Luxembourg and in the USA, Oregon and Washington State.  (Assisted suicide is now also legal in the US state of Vermont and in Canada).


Liz is opposed to the legalisation of assisted suicide and wanted to discover for herself how these laws work in practice and how, if at all, their existence changes the culture of a country.  She shares her discoveries in a two-part BBC World Service radio documentary entitled, “When Assisted Death is Legal” and which is available to listen to here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p014dkq5


In under an hour of listening time, these programmes provide important new information and perspectives on this most difficult of topics.  For example:


* In Luxembourg, Jean Huss and Lydie Err, who co-sponsored the Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia Bill 2012, admitted they were disappointed in the law because they said it failed to include children and those with dementia.  When I asked why these groups were not included in their law, they said that they knew it was easier to pass the law initially for terminally ill people only and then, once passed, to increase the law’s application.


* In Oregon, where the law is the blueprint for the Assisted Dying Bill currently before you in the House of Lords, the 2013 statistics reveal that pain is infact not one of the main concerns of people requesting assisted suicide.  Instead, the three main reasons are loss of autonomy (93%), decreasing ability to participate in activities that make life enjoyable (88.7%) and loss of dignity (73.2%).  By comparison, inadequate pain control or concern about it was one of the least important concerns at 28.2%.


*  Since this documentary was produced, Washington State’s 2013 annual report has shown that 61% of all those who were supplied lethal drugs in order to commit suicide listed the feeling of being a burden on family, friends or caregivers as one of their main reasons for their request.


* In Switzerland, assisted suicide has been legal since the late 1800’s and one of its most stringent safeguards is that each case is investigated by the police


* The Netherlands are currently debating something called ‘Completed Life’ which would legalise assisted suicide for those 70+ who are tired of life


* In the first 10 years since the Belgium Euthanasia law was enacted, there has not been one case of abuse reported.  Is this because there have been no abuses (the BMJ reported in 2010 that only half of all euthanasia cases are properly reported) or because, as in most other countries, reporting and monitoring are self-regulatory?


Liz’s personal conclusion is that the risks to the safety and wellbeing of the majority should continue to outweigh the individual needs of those who want an assisted suicide.  She hopes you agree and will vote ‘no’ to the Assisted Dying Bill.


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  4 Responses to ““When Assisted Death is Legal””

  1. The problem with assisted suicide sa I see it, is that it could be forced on disabled people against their will.

  2. I am of the opinion that a nation state has no right or authority to cause or create the death of any human being or allow it’s self to become an accessory to euthanasia programs or acts of self mutilation. I am myself am a registered disabled person with multiple physical conditions who is 74 years of age. ( The ideal target candidate for the Euthanasia lobbyists) When & if the time comes when life is no longer a joy & pleasure I reserve my right to decide upon my decision to die. When I am no longer able to share the gift of my life & the sharing of humanity with others, then I hope I am able to make my own decision alone. Should I have another incapacitating stroke or become brain damaged to the extent that I am brain dead , then those who love me , already know & understand my wishes. Then I alone have completed my circle of life & I shall not fear death neither shall I desire it as it comes to us all.

  3. We already have Oregon’s blueprint in the UK only under a different title. If you look at their “3 main reasons” they are exactly what will happen to disabled people with the ending of I L F. No I L F No Life !

  4. i agree that some scrutiny should be mandatory, but scrutiny by whom? and whose personal decisions will this be based on?

    as for the objections you give above – why are they demoted below physical pain. are we not all too aware of the worse effect mentally and emotionally of all the factors you mention? “The spirit of a man can put up with his malady, but as for a broken spirit – who can bear it?”

    i would suggest any enquiry by any party first eliminate causes of these issues if they can. sometimes they cannot. so where does that leave someone who does not wish to carry on a life they despise, late in life without any recourse to change it?

    are you opposed to all assisted suicide (appalling expression) and if so on what basis? or are you interested in a safer process to allow it? i have loathed life many times and also wanted to end it many times. i now enjoy it but that was not with assistance even though i had good psychotherapy the first time and absolutely useless ‘psychotherapy’ more recently. i have had to come to terms with why life is of any point what so ever, after coming to terms properly with some extremely invasive issues, including all of the above – but i am fortunate to have done that and still would welcome death as a release. sometimes it is people’s fear or lack of addressing painful things that forms their prejudices. i agree abuses should be avoided, i will listen to the broadcasts as this is an important topic for me having survived repeated suicidal episodes for decades now. thanks for the links.

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