By Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition
The Spectator published an excellent article, on May 6, by Michael Wee, the education and research officer at the Anscombe Bioethics Centre. The article concerns the push by the assisted suicide lobby for people, with certain medical conditions, to agree to refuse all medical treatment.
Wee writes in “Coronavirus and the misuse of ‘do not resuscitate’ orders”:
… alarm bells should be ringing that an organisation called ‘Compassion in Dying’ has been offering advice on how to make advance decisions. (The clue’s in the name: it was founded by its more well-known sister organisation, Dignity in Dying, which campaigns for the legalisation of assisted suicide.)
Back in 2014, concerns were raised by disability campaigners when Compassion in Dying received £1 million in lottery funding for an outreach project on advance decisions. Compassion in Dying later reported that its approach would ‘save money in the long-term’ by ensuring people did not get unwanted treatment.
More recently, the organisation has rolled out a special coronavirus page on refusing treatment, with a format almost identical to the gov.uk information pages on driving licences or tax returns. This seems highly unusual for a registered charity, and potentially misleading.
The danger with this approach is that it is misleading and during the Covid-19 crisis it results in the denial of life-saving treatment, based on discriminatory assumptions, when the treatment is beneficial.
Follow the coronavirus page and it leads you to its bespoke advance decision pack, where the template form directs a person to consider refusing all life-sustaining treatment in the event of whichever condition one chooses to include. First on the list is ‘any type of dementia’.
The message is clear: people are asked to judge whether life with a certain condition or disability is worth living. Coronavirus, Parkinson’s, or stroke – the question is the same, regardless of one’s chances of survival. … It is almost assisted suicide by the backdoor.
The philosophy of the assisted suicide lobby negatively affects people with disabilities and people with other vulnerable conditions. Wee explains:
Paralympic gold medalist Baroness Grey-Thompson once wrote that legalising assisted suicide would ‘exacerbate the assumption that because there may [be] some things I cannot do, everything must be negative’. Such an attitude can easily go on to influence vulnerable people.
Promoting blanket refusals of treatment has the same, pernicious effect of promoting a blanket dismissal of life with disability. And no one should be using the coronavirus crisis to encourage such thinking.
Editor’s note. This is taken from a post that appeared on Mr. Schadenberg’s blog and is reposted with permission.