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Assisted Dying - Question for Short Debate

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 8:02 pm on 6th March 2017.

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Photo of The Bishop of Worcester The Bishop of Worcester Bishop 8:02 pm, 6th March 2017

My Lords, I oppose assisted dying not on religious, but on human grounds. Surely the only place in North America where legislation has been in place long enough to draw any reasonable conclusions is Oregon. The claim of those pressing for assisted suicide here, that there have been no documented cases of abuse or coercion in the two decades since it was passed, is highly contentious. The US Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund—a leading national civil rights law and policy centre—has documented cases of complication and abuse arising from the law in Oregon and neighbouring Washington state. Writing in the Wall St Journal, William Toffler, a doctor in Oregon, described how the law there has had adverse consequences for the doctor-patient relationship, and how a developing climate of “secrecy” and “fear” has worsened the situation of the most vulnerable.

Little wonder that here in the UK, alongside medical professionals, those who have been most vocal in their opposition to assisted dying are grass-roots groups of disabled people. Disabled activists see it as a step towards a society that develops social and cost-related judgments about a person’s quality and value of life, which then become inevitable factors in the conversation around eligibility for assisted suicide. That is why investing in palliative care, not offering legal assistance with suicide, is the only truly progressive way forward.