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On September 11 2015 the Marris assisted suicide Bill
was defeated 330 votes to 118.
Why ‘assisted suicide’ and not ‘assisted dying’?
What is proposed in the Assisted Dying Bill is to aid a terminally ill, mentally competent adult who wishes to die to ingest lethal quantities of prescribed drugs. It is suicide.
The term “assisted dying” dishonestly removes the moral implications of suicide by pretending it is simply a medical choice. No To Assisted Suicide calls for honesty in this discussion.
Hard to assess life expectancy
Life-expectancy prognoses are often wrong.
The Marris Bill allows for assisted suicide only for those who have less than six months to live. But as the Royal College of General Practitioners has made clear, when predicting death beyond more than a week or two, “the scope for error can extend into years”.
Bad for doctor/patient relationship
The Bill allows doctors to behave contrary to the ethics of clinical practice.
There is significant concern amongst the Royal Medical Colleges that legalising assisted suicide will alter the ethos within which medical care is provided and be detrimental to the doctor/patient relationship. The British Medical Association and the Royal College of General Practitioners share the view that allowing doctors to prescribe patients drugs which bring about their death would be contrary to the ethics of clinical practice, as the principal purpose of medicine is to improve a patient’s quality of life, not intentionally to foreshorten it. Surveys of doctors show that the vast majority do not want to be involved in assisting someone’s suicide.
If the law is passed, wrongful deaths will occur
The best safeguard is to keep the present law.
Evidence from Oregon and Washington, which allow doctor-assisted suicide, shows that many of those who ended their own lives in those States felt a burden on family, friends, or caregivers. Washington State’s own 2014 report stated that 59% of those who died under the legislation self-identified as feeling a burden. Where a person seeks assisted suicide citing ‘feeling a burden’, their choice is not freely made. People who feel a burden are among the most vulnerable in society and often need encouragement to live. This Bill would put them at risk. There is pressure in Oregon to extend the definition of who can receive assistance with suicide.
It’s hard to assess who has the mental capacity to end their own life
People who are suicidal are often depressed.
In the general population, suicidal thoughts and urges are common symptoms of depression, and serious suicidal thoughts rarely arise apart from depression. A study conducted in Oregon found that 15 of 58 participants were either distressed or experiencing feelings of extreme helplessness. In 2006, compiling the available evidence, the Royal College of Psychiatrists advised that “many doctors do not recognise depression or know how to assess for its presence in terminally ill patients.” The decision to end one’s life is the biggest decision anyone can take. The proponents of assisted dying legislation have not explained how a doctor should go about assessing mental capacity for suicide.
But isn’t the present law cruel, condemning people to a painful death?
The present law (the 1961 Suicide Act) decriminalised suicide to remove the needless and heartless punishment of attempted suicides and families of completed suicides. It does not prevent suicides – no law could – but punishes those who aid or abet suicide.
Only a handful of people have ever been prosecuted under this law. Juries are (rightly) sympathetic in the rare cases where genuine mercy killings come before the courts.
Nor do those opting for assisted suicide in Oregon kill themselves because of pain. In fact pain has never even been in the top five reasons why people opt for an assisted suicide in Oregon (loss of autonomy, inability to do the things that make life enjoyable, loss of dignity, and fear of being a burden all come before pain).
The site is owned by Dr Kevin Yuill, academic and author of
‘Assisted Suicide: The Liberal, Humanist Case Against Legalization’.
Kevin is helped by a small team of volunteers to maintain
the site. For press enquiries, more information, to donate
or volunteer, contact email@example.com.