The draft law is being debated in House of Lords. “Any change would threaten society’s ability to safeguard vulnerable patients from abuse”, doctors say.
This Friday the Members of the British House of Lords have started to debate the Assisted Dying Bill at Second Reading.
Introduced by independent peer Baroness Meacher, it aims to to legalise assisted suicide for terminally ill adults with six months or less to live in England and Wales.
Currently, those who judged to have assisted the suicide or attempted suicide of another person can be jailed for up to 14 years.
The new Bill states that those wanting to end their life would have to sign a declaration approved by two doctors, which is signed off by the High Court.
Bills at Second Reading in the House of Lords do not conventionally go to a vote, so the Bill proceeds to committee stage where a select group of peers will scrutinise it before it goes to Report Stage before the full House.
According to a recent YouGov poll revealing, 73% of Britons are in favour of Baroness Meacher's Bill.
However, medical professionals, religious leaders and Christian groups have urged peers to reject the draft law, stating that the vulnerable would be put at risk.
The President of the Christian Medical Fellowship, John Wyatt, warned that “a lot of Christian doctors will come to the conclusion: 'I simply can't practise in the NHS under these circumstances. It is so unacceptable for me to be having to be telling this succession of people something which I think is quite wrong, offering them the possibility of killing themselves'".
“Out of the half million who die in the UK each year, the majority are terminally ill and would qualify for receiving lethal drugs if Baroness Meacher's Bill becomes law”, he added.
Wyatt has written a Parliamentary Briefing for the Lords in which he presents his views of the flaws in Baroness Meacher's Bill. It was circulated to the MP.
Furthermore, around 1,700 doctors and nurses wrote a letter to the Health Secretary Sajid Javid, stressing that “any change would threaten society’s ability to safeguard vulnerable patients from abuse, it would undermine the trust the public places in physicians”
Furthermore, “it would send a clear message to our frail, elderly and disabled patients about the value that society places on them as people”.
“The prohibition of killing is the safeguard. The current law is the protection for the vulnerable", says the letter.
They underline that “the cruel irony of this path is that legislation introduced with the good intention of enhancing patient choice will diminish the choices of the most vulnerable".
“We would not take patients’ lives – even if they asked us to – but for the sake of us all and for future generation, we ask that the law remain unchanged”, concludes the letter.
The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, Roman Catholic Cardinal Vincent Nichols, and Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, also wrote a joint letter to the peers, expressing their “profound disquiet”.
Although they “acknowledge that Baroness Meacher is seeking the alleviation of suffering”, and ”this motivation we share wholeheartedly”, they “disagree on the means advanced to address this very real concern”.
”We believe that the aim of a compassionate society should be assisted living rather than an acceptance of assisted suicide".