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We’re more likely to get assisted suicide with a Labour government

20 July 2014

1:36 PM

20 July 2014

1:36 PM

A doctor friend told me the other day that when he was taking a patient through her care programme plan – it’s now required for elderly and terminally ill patients – he asked her, as delicately as possible, how she wanted to die. She looked appalled. ‘But I don’t want to die,’ she said.

And that is probably the view of quite a few Brits, notwithstanding our greater openness about death. Lord Falconer’s bill on Assisted Dying, which passed its second reading in the Lords on Friday and now passes to committee stage, has at least got everyone talking about dying, though I still can’t quite get my head round his pronouncement that the bill, if passed, would mean ‘less suffering, not more deaths’. Look, the number of deaths will be precisely the same with or without his bill; the question is, will doctors be expediting the process by handing lethal medication to their patients to enable them to commit suicide.

The question hasn’t quite taken a party political dimension yet, but can we just note that Ed Miliband has intimated that Labour, if elected, would make time for the bill to be considered in the Commons. At present, without Government backing, it’ll die all by itself. We should perhaps be taking that on board: you’re more likely to get assisted suicide with a Labour government.


In the wake of the marathon debate – 10 hours – in the Lords, with peers queuing to speak, the bill as proposed looks like even more of a mess than it did on first reading.  It’s opening a door merely in order for it to be pushed open further at the first opportunity. As Rabbi Julia Neuberger points out, the criterion that the patients in question should have a life expectancy in the opinion of two doctors, of no more than half a year, is nonsense.

For one thing, there is no exact prognosis when it comes to predicting how long a patient has to live; lots of people stubbornly hang on for years after their doctors predicted a couple of months. The grimmest cases of human suffering are also not going to conclude with death in half a year; the unfortunates with locked-in syndrome, for instance, could last far longer. And these individuals will be the first to challenge the restriction that patients must be able to administer the lethal injection themselves. Why should the able bodied be privileged over those who happen to be physically unable to act for themselves? You can see the restrictions being flouted on compassionate grounds even while they’re touted as safeguards.

But once the principle is accepted that doctors may kill their patients – and it is the nicest moral distinction that separates the provision of lethal medication from its administration – then our descent down the slippery slope begins. All the subsequent modifications and liberalisations will be minor adjustments once the great principle is accepted. Then the stories will start to emerge of the elderly individuals who did not actually meet the strict criteria for assisted suicide, but were given encouragement by their relatives to take the step. Lord Tebbit stated the obvious during the debate when he said that it gives the avaricious a stake in the suicide of their relatives.

But the useful thing about the debate is that it has raised some crucial issues around death and dying that have been left unaddressed. The proponents of assisted suicide who point out that at present, it is perfectly legal to allow someone to die by withdrawing food and, more importantly, water, are dead right. But dying of thirst is one of the worst deaths imaginable. In the course of the debate I learned that in some hospitals, there are restrictions on the amount of morphine that may be administered to a patient in acute pain, lest the dose kill the patient. It should be pretty elementary moral philosophy to distinguish between the intention to kill and the intention to relieve suffering, even if the outcome is the same in both cases. Then there is the question of the funding and provision of palliative care and of hospices – both indispensable for dignity in dying.

What these interesting issues point to is the desirability of establishing, as the Anglican bishops suggest, a commission into the question of how we die, which might explore ways of improving the way we deal with suffering right now, without changing the relationship between doctors and patients forever. The critical issue would be who would chair such a commission. In making that choice, David Cameron – no supporter of doctor-asssisted suicide – could actually do some good.

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Show comments
  • sara

    Give them a call. Also there are no end of bird sanctuaries who would care for it. Google one for your area.

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  • sara

    If Labour unfortunately win the election next year, I will probably consider suicide.

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    upvc پنجره

  • Diggery Whiggery

    “A doctor friend told me the other day that when he was taking a patient through her care programme plan – it’s now required for elderly and terminally ill patients – he asked her, as delicately as possible, how she wanted to die. She looked appalled. ‘But I don’t want to die,’ she said.”

    That’s it in a nutshell, that a doctor should be asking that question is appalling. Doctors are there to save lives not help them expire. As soon as you give Doctor’s the choice between helping people to live or die, they’ll choose the latter more and more often. Why? Because they don’t have the time or the resources to do the former and it’s easier.

  • Yorkieeye

    My father died in a hospice and I wouldn’t want to. They were more concerned with being seen not to over medicate and advance his death than they were with keeping him comfortable. I began to wish he’d stayed in a proper hospital with the very good doctor he had there. The hospice also stopped feeding and watering him but were keen to point out that they were not proponents of the Liverpool care path. I was hard pressed to understand the difference. My brother particularly is haunted by this thought of the cruelty father suffered.

  • Yorkieeye

    Very emotive language ‘doctors killing their patients’ what rubbish it is doctors facilitating patients killing themselves. My father died in terrible pain and we had to watch and he endure it for days. There was absolutely not a chance that he would recover and he wanted out. How dare anyone say he must endure it. It’s like the arguments that raged over childbirth pain alleviation. My father was an atheist and didn’t give a toss about anyone else’s god. I believe he had the right to choose. And Falconer was right it won’t mean more deaths, so why quibble, the same is exactly that, not more. It’s all very well your doctor friend’s little story about his patient not wanting to die, who does in normal circumstances? But no ones dodged it yet, it’s coming whether you like it or not. My father wanted out and as an atheist who has the right to tell him his mortal soul is in peril? He would have considered that superstitious nonsense.

  • Shazza

    If Labour unfortunately win the election next year, I will probably consider suicide.

    • Retired Nurse

      NormanLamb should consider it himself…one thinks of the terms ‘political ballast’, ’empty husk’ etc…and the disgusting shyster lawyer tricks he’s pulled over the terms of reference for the liverpool care pathway review – I’d pay for the barbies.

  • JackBlack1

    Another reason not to vote for Labour then (as if we needed another)

  • Mynydd

    “We should perhaps be taking that on board: you’re more likely to get assisted suicide with a Labour government”
    This is not quite right because you have said

  • tjamesjones

    and we’re more likely to need it

  • Tim Baker

    This is a war against Christianity.

    • red2black

      Surely there will be Christians ‘for’ and Christians ‘against’?

  • Freedom

    ‘issues around’… are you American? For a while I thought I was reading a work of journalism; then in a flash it turned into a postmodern tear-your-hair-out monograph of unreadable jargon.

  • Retired Nurse

    and PS, it isn’t ‘legal’ to withold food or fluids without there being a medical reason…hence these doctors just fabricate a medical reason when they do it -to prove murder, you have to prove intent…and the chances of doing that with a medical practitioner are zero – even if they opt for the ‘nil by mouth’ approach to police questioning.

  • Retired Nurse

    The actual title of the Dutch euthanasia law is the “Termination of Life
    on Request & Assisted Suicide (Review Procedures) Act 2001″ ie it is
    the same as Falconers’ ‘assisted dying’.. we are getting a euthanasia bill.

    Staggered by Mrs Neuberger’s comments in the Lords Debate on Falconer….total hypocrisy given the way she’s treated the victims of the euthanasic syringe called the ‘LIverpool Care Pathway’….She began her peculiar statement by saying ”
    Lords, as many noble Lords know, last year I chaired the panel reviewing
    the use of the Liverpool care pathway. It is important that we found no
    evidence that it had been used to hasten people’s deaths,..”…..and ended with
    her problems with the Falconer bill;
    there is the timeframe of six months. I speak as the daughter of a
    mother who had a prognosis of a few weeks but was in the care of the
    North Camden palliative care team for five years.”
    Her entire ‘impartial’ review had terms of reference so contrived that you couldn’t actually make a submission unless you ADMITTED your relative was ‘hours away from death’ by natural causes. Furthermore, she has refused to publish the submissions even in redacted form, and actually employed those responsible for the shambolic roll out of the End of Life Care Program to investigate themselves behind the scene. One was even awarded an MBE for her pains, though we’re not allowed to know who nominated her . Worse yet, there were 2 versions of the LCP v.11 and v.12. The former had NO CONSENT process on it, so broke the Mental Capacity Act and Art.2 HRA ”right to life”. Norman Lamb appointed all the ‘experts’ to be used by hospital trusts receiving complaints – and oddly, none has been found to have ‘hastened death’. She and the ghastly ‘Don’t Care’ minister Lamb have even connived the date for publication of her final report to be 1 month after the 2015 General Election.

    The only person who spoke any sense at all in that entire debate was Helena Kennedy QC: and since no one can afford legal fees, legal aid has been scrapped, and Cameron is about to ditch the HRA altogether, I’d start getting worried if I were you. I’m a former nurse, and I’m scared ####less!

  • JimHHalpert

    I’m surprised nobody has done it yet, so let me point out the obvious parallel with abortion. The 1967 Act, like the putative new law on assisted dying, states that an abortion must be signed off by two doctors on the grounds of “avoiding injury to the physical or mental health of the woman.” And look where we are today.

    • MrsDBliss

      Except the victims of the abortion act are faceless. The victims of this act will be us.

  • JoeDM

    Assissted dying is better than the pain and suffering of the Liverpool Pathway.

  • RobertC

    “At present, without Government backing, it’ll die all by itself.”

    Irony detected, but may not be present.

  • Paul Gilbert

    Would it not be better if the headline said UK Get assisted suicide with conservative, Labour and the laughing party Lib Because each one as Killed the UK

  • The Masked Marvel

    Well, voting in a Labour Government would be tantamount to national assisted suicide, so……

  • Jacques Strap

    economic suicide….

  • lgrundy

    Of course we’re more likely to get what is euphemistically described as ‘assisted dying’ under a Labour government. Socialists have been killing people ‘to make the world a better place’ for nigh on 100 years.

  • Jack

    I have nothing but doubt for the state, and I’m sure assisted dying would be abused more than once, as everything is at some point. I personally would choose to end my life in certain circumstances – not depression, perhaps not even cancer, but dementia almost certainly. After seeing more than one family member lose all memory and personality the thought terrifies me, and I think I would welcome a peaceful and mindful death that came after a lot of parties and a good few talks with loved ones. If the option was there to have something prescribed so all it took was a drink then I’d probably go that route, if not I’d like to think people would respect my right to go as I choose.

    If the thing does get put in place, though, will it really change the relationship between doctors and patients? Obviously there are horror stories, Shipman etc, but doctors must have for a long time been easing people over the line when they were suffering deeply and their life was already effectively over. The law as it stands might have cracked down on it, but I can’t imagine over the preceding the century it wasn’t done on some occasions in good faith.

    • Holly

      ‘doubt for the state’!
      I do not trust the ‘state’ at all, and trust a ‘state’ governed by socialists even less.

      • Jack

        Yeah, that’s why I said nothing but doubt, rather than a bit of.

  • Amir

    Read this article about Michael Gove’s demotion:

    • HookesLaw


    • Aberrant_Apostrophe

      The brief article contains the key phrase “… if you are going to reform big public service, you have to get the people involved on the ground on your side and take them with you and not turn them against you.”

      Good luck with getting the NUT ‘on your side’.

      • Colonel Mustard

        Yes, hard to believe that people can be so ignorant of the left’s subversion agenda that they really think diehard ideologues can be got on side!

  • Kholin

    I’d like to help Labour commit assisted suicide.

  • Holly

    Just Google, George Bernard Shaw- justify your existence….
    Scary sh*t.

    • Colonel Mustard

      The Irish extremist Shaw was the precursor of the modern marxist inspired Fabian Socialist attraction to an elite that knows what is good for us:-

      “Why appeal to the mob when ninety-five per cent of them do not understand politics, and can do nothing but mischief without leaders?”

      Ah, yes, ‘leaders’. A word that resonates today with unelected public servants who want to lead us beyond their authority to a destination they have decided for us.

      “I, as a Socialist, have had to preach, as much as anyone, the enormous power of the environment. We can change it; we must change it; there is absolutely no other sense in life than the task of changing it. What is the use of writing plays, what is the use of writing anything, if there is not a will which finally moulds chaos itself into a race of gods.”

      There is that elitism again. It could be telemachus writing that drivel – the sunlit utopia that can only be achieved by “change” determined and executed by those who know best, who are intellectually superior.

      But here is more of telemachus’ creed:-

      “But the most elaborate code of this sort would still have left unspecified a hundred ways in which wreckers of Communism could have sidetracked it without ever having to face the essential questions: are you pulling your weight in the social boat? are you giving more trouble than you are worth? have you earned the privilege of living in a civilized community? That is why the Russians were forced to set up an Inquisition or Star Chamber, called at first the Cheka and now the Ogpu, to go into these questions and “liquidate” persons who could not answer them satisfactorily.”

      “To cut humanity up into small cliques, and effectively limit the selection of the individual to his own clique, is to postpone the Superman for eons, if not for ever. Not only should every person be nourished and trained as a possible parent, but there should be no possibility of such an obstacle to natural selection as the objection of a countess to a navvy or of a duke to a charwoman. Equality is essential to good breeding; and equality, as all economists know, is incompatible with property.”

      Social Darwinism I think telemachus calls it.

      This is the reality of the socialist creed and has been wherever it has wormed its way to single party state. It is repulsive and yet Fabians treat as hero this man whose words if written by Powell or Farage would incite outrage and condemnation from the very people who now seek to inflict the ravings of this mad Irishman on us.

      • Holly

        They are truly blood chilling thoughts, and this bod actually spoke them.

        • global city

          he was not alone amongst the Socialists…. and too many of today’s stupid lefties have similar attitudes to the lumpen proletariat.

      • global city

        If you ever find yourself discussing that issue with a useful idiot ask them how they managed to get up into the elite they are advocating take over our lives. They always find it acutely embarrassing!

        Once in a blue moon it even helps shock them into realising that what they’re peddling is utter nonsense…one more soul saved!

      • Daidragon

        Pygmalion was great though.

  • saffrin

    Assisted dying from Labour would be better than their left to die uncared for dying with Andy Burnham’s Liverpool Pathway.
    Then again, why not have an NHS that deals with the sick because they are sick and not some bureaucracy that uses the sick and dying as a funding exercise?

  • Colonel Mustard

    We got manslaughter from the Labour party in Mid-Staffs.

    • Aberrant_Apostrophe

      Yup. Melanie walked straight into that one.

  • Smithersjones2013

    without changing the relationship between doctors and patients forever.

    And there we have it. The ”pigs might fly’ moment’. If government demands that Doctors facilitate the very thing Doctors are intended to prevent above all else then of course their relationships will change.

    More bovine drivel from the Coffee House herd!

    And if our religious and politicial leaders are so intent on forcing this upon people let them become the new generation of Pierrepoints!

    • red2black

      By ‘the very thing’ do you mean death, or suffering?

    • HookesLaw

      How does a doctor prevent a terminaly ill patient from dying? Do you expect doctors to abolish death?

  • swatnan

    I doubt it. When it comes to these touchy feely decisions, Labour just couldn’t bring themselves to take a decision. But the Tories wouldstep in and say : Thats got to change. They did that with Union Reform; they’ll do it with Assisted Dying.

    • red2black

      Is your own ‘touchy feely decision’ for or against Assisted Dying?

      • swatnan

        For. Time comes for everyone; you can’t delay it or postpone it or put it off. This morning I saved a pigeon from being mauled to death by next door’s cat. Perhaps I should have left the cat to finish off the job. I now have a pigeon, been sitting out all day on our patio, injured, unable to fly. There’s bugger all I can do to help it. I’ve left out seed and water, but I doubt if it will survive the night.
        I think it knows, its time.

        • global city

          The RSPCA
          Give them a call. Also there are no end of bird sanctuaries who would care for it. Google one for your area.

          Don’t let the cat back in the garden!:)

        • red2black

          Thanks for replying. I’m sure you’ll have plenty of cross-party support, as will those against.