It was good to see that the Prime Minister has written a piece in the Daily Telegraph today against assisted suicide. (And as I write that sentence it strikes me forcibly just how much the country has changed in my life time. In earlier and, at least as far as this is concerned, better, times the subject wouldn't even be discussed; the possibility that such an act could be legalised would have been laughable.)
He begins by saying...
Many times in the past 80 years, Parliament has considered – and rejected – the legalisation of assisted suicide. If, in the wake of revived debate on these matters, a new proposal were to come forward, I do not believe the outcome would be any different.And rightly concludes (my emphasis)...
Cases dominating the public arena make for harrowing reading and the first and most obvious response is to say that something must be done. But when these complex, individual and distressing cases are considered in detail, a solution that at first might seem sensible – the right to die in a manner and at a time of one's choosing – swiftly becomes less straightforward and more worrying.
The law – together with the values and standards of our caring professions – supports good care, including palliative care for the most difficult of conditions; and also protects the most vulnerable in our society. For let us be clear: death as an option and an entitlement, via whatever bureaucratic processes a change in the law might devise, would fundamentally change the way we think about mortality.Now if only he could think as clearly about abortion, sex education and religious liberty we might be getting somewhere!
The risk of pressures – however subtle – on the frail and the vulnerable, who may feel their existences burdensome to others, cannot ever be entirely excluded. And the inevitable erosion of trust in the caring professions – if they were in a position to end life – would be to lose something very precious. For when I think of the kind of care Sarah and I saw in our local hospice, where we worked as volunteers, I know in my heart that there is such a thing as a good death.
And I believe it is our duty as a society to provide the skilled and loving care that makes it possible; and to use the laws we have well, rather than rush to change them.