‘Safeguards’ will not make assisted suicide acceptable

Editor’s note. This appears at “True Dignity Vermont: Vermont Citizens Against Assisted Suicide,” at http://truedignityvt.org/?p=220

Assisted suicide is illegal in the United Kingdom. Parliament has rejected six attempts to make it legal, the last in January 2010, when the vote was 85-16. Despite six failures, the proponents of legalization do not give up and have renewed their efforts through the media, especially through the recent televising by the BBC of a suicide at the Swiss assisted suicide clinic, Dignitas.

Baroness Finlay of Llandaff is Professor of Palliative Care at Cardiff University School of Medicine. Her full article, published on May 31 2011, can be accessed here, by paying a fee of $2.00 for a week’s subscription to the Times of London.

Below in italics are the points she makes that are relevant for the battle against assisted suicide here in the US .

Those campaigning for assisted suicide make it all sound so easy: safeguards, no investigation of those who assist and an assumption that everyone involved acts from the finest of motives…

So why are the so-called “safeguards” proposed by campaigners unsafe? First, they assume that one can define precisely who is terminally ill: one cannot. Doctors know only too well of misdiagnoses and prognoses that are wrong by months or years.

Second, coercive influences on a person are difficult to detect. Third, doctors and nurses often have a big influence on a patient.

So much appalling “care” has been exposed recently. Patients whose dignity is undermined, whose cost of care is eroding others’ inheritance, or who are made to feel a burden may feel that suicide seems the only option. But that does not mean that the law should change so they can be helped into oblivion…

…there are also unintended consequences. In countries with a physician-assisted suicide law, many doctors describe families pressuring them to hasten the end and of how deliberately foreshortening life flies counter to efforts to improve quality of life. And they describe how ending life becomes normalised. The rare event gradually becomes the expected event, as it becomes easier to see death as the solution to a problem.

We are all interconnected. The actions of one person affect others. Assisting suicide is a step too far; personal gain too easily masquerades as compassion…

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