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Warning against legalising assisted suicide

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A writer from a leading think tank has warned that if assisted suicide is legalised then the old, ill and frail will be deemed expendable. Cristina Odone, a writer for the Centre for Policy Studies, has stated that the most vulnerable could be bullied into an early death and that any softening of the law regarding assisted dying could open the door to full scale euthanasia.

Cristina Odone said that changing the law would lead to a new category of 'less than perfect' citizens who would be faced with self-inflicted death as a 'natural, normal and expected final solution.'

The warning follows the recent launch of Healthcare Professionals for Change, the first professional body of doctors and nurses set up with the explicit aim of changing the 1961 Suicide Act.

Assisted suicide is currently a criminal offence in England and Wales, punishable by up to 14 years in prison. New guidance was issued last year to clarify the law - it offered no guarantees against prosecution but instead the director of public prosecutions revealed the range of factors that would be taken into account when deciding on cases. More than 100 Britons with terminal or incurable illnesses have gone to the Swiss centre Dignitas to die and none of the relatives and friends involved in the cases has been prosecuted.

Odone said that any future weakening on the law would have catastrophic results for society:

"For the vulnerable, once it becomes enshrined in the law, this 'right' might turn into an obligation.

"They may feel that, once over a certain age, or grown too dependent on others, or too fed up with life, or too ill, they should opt for death rather than life.

"Worse, many may be coerced, actively or subtly, by cost-conscious hospitals, or by intended heirs with an eye to a legacy, or by exhausted carers.

"As assisted suicide becomes embedded in our culture, investing resources in caring for these vulnerable groups will be seen as a waste: they'll soon be gone."

Andrea Minichiello Williams, Director of Christian Concern for our Nation, said: “This report has highlighted some real concerns. There is currently sustained pressure by a minority of vocal and well-organised campaigners to weaken the law on assisted suicide and change public opinion. However, it is of great importance that the current laws are upheld as they provide vital protection for those who are the most vulnerable in society. People who are suffering at the end of their lives need to be shown compassion and given better palliative care, not pressured to die.”


Daily Telegraph