June 2014 Update on euthanasia and assisted suicide from Care Not Killing


Editor’s note. Care Not Killing is a UK-based alliance of individuals and organizations which brings together disability and human rights groups, healthcare providers, and faith-based bodies to ensure that existing laws against euthanasia and assisted suicide are not weakened or repealed. The Nicklinson case reference below is about euthanasia. Tony Nicklinson wants his doctors to be able to end his life and use a ‘common law defense of necessity’ against any possible murder charge. Holyrood is the capital of Scotland.

Dr. Peter Saunders

Dr. Peter Saunders

The final year of this current Parliament opened Wednesday with the Queen’s Speech, in the wake of which we expect Lord Falconer’s 2013 Assisted Dying Bill to be retabled [reintroduced]. In Scotland, Holyrood’s Health and Sport Committee are accepting evidence on Margo MacDonald’s Assisted Suicide Bill until Friday June 6. And the ruling of nine Supreme Court justices who sat last December on the Nicklinson case is expected any day now. With more appalling evidence pouring in from abroad, this is one of those weeks when the euthanasia threat is palpable.


Lord Falconer’s Assisted Dying Bill, first introduced in May 2013, fell at the close of the Parliamentary year last month, but he is set to reintroduce his proposals in coming days, following the State Opening of Parliament. Disability activists have initiated a petition calling on [British Prime Minister] David Cameron to act on his personal opposition to assisted suicide, which we encourage you to sign; debate has been ongoing, and carer Colin Harte’s recent radio interview is very much worth listening to.


Margo MacDonald, Member of the Scottish Parliament

Margo MacDonald, Member of the Scottish Parliament

Following the death of Margo MacDonald in April, the Green MSP Patrick Harvie has assumed responsibility for the Assisted Suicide (Scotland) Bill. The Bill’s underlying principles constitute a counsel of despair, while a meeting of lawyers in Scotland recently agreed that ‘the Bill as drafted… would be unworkable’. The Health and Sport committee are taking evidence until June 6.

Supreme Court

Despite most Supreme Court rulings being handed down around three months after the relevant hearing, the nine justices who heard the appeals in the cases of Nicklinson/Lamb and ‘Martin’ are yet to rule five and a half months on. This, it is to be hoped, is a sign that the gravity of the cases is being fully acknowledged. The ruling’s delivery will be streamed live online; until we know when, remind yourself of some of the key questions.

Foreign news

Reports last week suggest that Belgian euthanasia deaths rose 26.8% in 2013 to 1,816, representing five people every day having their lives ended, and a Brussels nurse has recently written of ‘what really happens in Belgium’s healthcare system with euthanasia’. The head of the regulatory commission, Wim Distelmans, who is already the subject of high profile official complaints, has sparked controversy by announcing an instructional tour of Auschwitz. If you are concerned about the situation in Belgium, please sign EPC Europe’s petition calling for the suspension of the euthanasia law there.

In Switzerland, meanwhile, extraordinary cases of non-terminally/chronically ill patients undergoing assisted suicide are increasingly becoming part of standard practice. EXIT, one of the more prominent assisted suicide organisations, has recently announced that it will now accept non-terminally ill elderly people, in a worrying but sadly unsurprising move.

Care Not Killing

Our Campaign Director, Dr. Peter Saunders, raised over £5,000 for Help the Hospices running the London Marathon. A number of very positive reports have highlighted the value and dynamism of care for those with terminal and progressive conditions, including a BBC feature on hospice care and press coverage given to a new initiative concerning dementia.

There have however been less agreeable reports concerning failings in care for elderly and dying people, further careless celebrity endorsements of euthanasia and evidence of a need for more frank discussion of death and dying. A challenge for all of us is: how do we build up a culture of care which not only responds to the needs and rightful expectations of those around us but which also guards against attempts to offer death as a ‘sensible alternative’? ….

Editor’s note. This appeared at on the blog of Dr. Peter Saunders Dr. Saunders is a former general surgeon and is CEO of Christian Medical Fellowship, a UK-based organization with 4,500 UK doctors and 1,000 medical students as members.