By David Alton
Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, says that euthanasia is “an act of violence, an attempt to take possession of the future…even if euthanasia were legalised in some form and pragmatic anxieties overcome, it could not be a course of action endorsed by Christians.”
On June 6th the House of Lords will have its first debate on Lord Joffe’s Patient Assisted Dying Bill – that seeks to make euthanasia legal. This “act of violence” will become routine and legal.
Care homes and hospices that have traditionally overseen the care of the elderly, the sick or the dying will become charnel houses. In seeking to “take possession of the future” we will demand of our doctors that they become licensed killers. The collateral effects on society’s attitudes are incalculable.
At Westminster last week one Peer, Baroness Trumpington, a former Health Minister, said that she had not received a single letter opposing euthanasia but had been inundated with letters supporting it. There is a huge write-in campaign. It is co-ordinated by those lobbying for change.
The issue for Christians is not simply about whether euthanasia should be endorsed, it is about whether something so fundamental should occur with barely a murmur of protest. Thirty years ago Christian quietism – and a docile, false belief that abortion would never be legalised – paved the way for a law that has claimed 6 million lives. With what indifference will we now allow the fate of the unborn to be visited on the sick and dying?
In writing to Members of the House of Lords, and MPs, you can remind them of this week’s important opinion poll of British doctors. 61% state that they do not want euthanasia legalised – with a further 13% undecided. Most doctors are so opposed – some 76% – that they say that if euthanasia were legalised they would refuse to perform it. Not one single palliative care doctor who responded to the survey said they would be prepared to practice euthanasia or assisted suicide.
Professor Tim Maughan the director of Wales Cancer Trials Network at Cardiff University put it succinctly: “this is not what we became doctors to do.”
This debate has been manufactured by lobby groups with a clear agenda. Despite all the publicity hype around the tragic cases of Diane Pretty and Reg Crew, half the doctors who were surveyed said that in the past three years not a single patient or their relatives had requested euthanasia. 59% of the doctors said that the British Medical Association were right to resist moves to legalise euthanasia.
The Hospice Movement has warned of the dire consequences. Dr. Nigel Sykes, Medical director of St. Christopher’s Hospice in London says the Joffe Bill is “dangerous” and would “progress to mental illness. Euthanasia without express request will inevitably follow. Patients will be made to think that euthanasia is the decent thing to do.”
The BMA’s opposition to the Joffe Bill has been joined by the Disability Rights Commission – who say it will endanger disabled people – and also by Help the Aged. But what will you do?
Now is the time to speak out. We don’t need euthanasia, we need more resources for geriatric care and hospices. To die with dignity we don’t need doctors to kill us.