Deaths, Assisted Killing, Statistics, and a BBC Charter That Suuposedly Requires Balance When Reporting Ethical Issues…
In a newspaper article on February 10th the NHS Psychiatrist and newspaper columnist, Dr.Max Pemberton, cogently set out the arguments for and against assisted suicide(“No one should have to die in agony. But assisted suicide fills me with horror”). He came to the conclusion that while there are no easy answers, and that all of us understand and are aware of heart-rending individual cases, “with my head I know there are serious risks to assisted dying; that it will be misused.”
Patient safety is the reason why the British Medical Association, and most doctors, have opposed a change in the law – and they also loathe the idea that they will be forced to give lethal injections to their patients. For the doctor, assisted dying means assisted killing.
A very few people choose to go to the euthanasia centre in Switzerland to have their lives ended. Each time this happens campaigners turn the event into a media event.
One organisation trying to force a change in the law has published figures that in a recent year there were 47 such deaths in Switzerland. That figure represents just 0.008 per cent of deaths of Britons in 2016:47 out of a total of 597,211 UK deaths in 2016. Again: 0.008%
In reply to a recent Parliamentary Question that I tabled I asked about the number of deaths in the UK in each of the past ten years. In 2015 it was 602,782; 2014 570,341; 2013, 576,458; 2012, 569,024 – and about the same number in every previous year. Of these 5 million deaths, how many made the headlines? How many required a Court Case or a John Humphrey’s interview on the BBC’s Today Programme (that seems to campaign relentlessly for assisted killing). Yes, palliative care can always be improved; yes, our wonderful hospices could do with more resources; but, no, you don’t need a doctor to kill you to die with dignity.
So why does the BBC constantly distort the arguments and pour oxygen into a highly orchestrated and well funded campaign to introduce assisted killing into the UK?
If they were observing the balance which the BBC Charter requires them to show on ethical issues they would remind their viewers and listeners of the Royal Colleges that represent medics, the British Medical Association, the disability rights movement and the hospices, along with both Houses of Parliament, that have all said no to changing a law that protects the most vulnerable and doesn’t force doctors to kill their patients.
Why have they all come to the same conclusion as Dr.Pemberton?
They all agree that the key issue is public protection and in jurisdictions where the law has been changed the so-called “right to die” rapidly becomes a duty to die and public protection is eclipsed as thousands of depressed or disabled people are callously disposed of.
When you ask the question “should people have dignity when they are dying?” of course people say yes – so do I – but giving patients lethal injections is neither ethical or dignified.
Instead of listening to media cheer leaders for euthanasia we should ask why half a million deaths in the UK each year are unremarked and unreported. Hard cases always make bad laws.
The campaigners who are trying to subvert the medical organisations, and the will of Parliament, should put their considerable resources into supporting palliative care and hospices who do such wonderful work in caring for the hundreds of thousands that die annually, without recourse to euthanasia or the courts, and who need love and care as they enter the final days of their lives, not a lethal injection.