Assisted Dying Bill: Do You Trust the Government?

Discussion of the Present Bill

Discussion of the proposed changes to the law envisaged by the Assisted Dying 2021 Bill, now facing its second reading in the House of Lords, has been fairly predictable. Lawyers, philosophers, religious leaders, medical practitioners, disabled advocacy groups, politicians and others have all had something to contribute on both sides of the argument. There have been harrowing tales of people dying in agony, usually from the perspective of a near relative, distressed at what they were witnessing; eloquent pleas to be freed from pain coming from the very sick; haunting articulation of vulnerability from those who fear that allowing assisted dying might easily lead to pressure to comply with another’s decision or, worse still, have no power of deciding for oneself at all. At its best, the discussion has been honest and respectful; at its worst, it has degenerated into abuse of those who think differently.

Trust

One of the big questions that has often been glossed over, however, is that of trust. Not just trust in the medical profession or one’s nearest and dearest but trust in the Government and its readiness to protect its citizens. Having seen the shameful way in which the present British Government placed elderly and vulnerable care home residents at risk in the earlier stages of the COVID outbreak, I am not as sanguine as I might once have been about the ‘robust measures’ to be put in place if the bill becomes law. Does no one really think that if it were to a government’s economic or political advantage, it might use the system, so to say, to rid itself of some non-productive elements (people, to you and me)?

Manipulation of Facts

One of the consequences of climate change is that pressure on resources increases. Who would like to guess whether that might also add another ingredient to the mix? Encouraging Uncle Henry to take the honourable route out of life when he is old and frail is one thing, perhaps, but resentment of the elderly and sick stirred up in recent years, especially during lockdown, has wider implications. Have you noticed that death from COVID is not often presented straightforwardly as a COVID death but given some interesting qualifications. We are usually told that the deceased had ‘underlying health conditions,’ as though that made his/her death less important, less of a human tragedy. There is some manipulation of facts here in the way the figures are presented but we seem to be deadened to its significance in other areas of life — or am I being unduly cynical?

A Personal View

You will understand that I do not think of human beings as disposable items and am personally unhappy with both the underlying premiss and some of the concrete proposals of this bill. I have argued the same when discussing some previous iterations of this bill. That is not my purpose this morning. I pray for those debating the bill; I pray for those affected by its outcome — in other words, for all of us. Whatever decision is made in this instance, many of the questions the bill touches upon, including rights over one’s body and the role of the State, have far-reaching implications, but we are not always as wise as we would like to be.

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9 thoughts on “Assisted Dying Bill: Do You Trust the Government?”

  1. Life is given by God. We have no right to end it.
    Once these decisions are given into man or government hands. We are all at risk.
    Think how the abortion act was “safeguarded”. Two doctors had to sign for each case. Piles of presigned forms were found at abortion clinics.
    It’s a sad fact, but it seems where money is involved. No man can be trusted.

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  2. Even as a Christian,I admit to being in a quandary on this overall question of assisted dying , having witnessed much suffering .
    But do I trust any government to act with integrity , sadly no .
    There is much concern here in Scotland because of a view subtly expressed but never the less deeply cynical that independence and those seeking it can bide their time , because the seniors who are more likely to vote against will be dying off. Will I want to give an additional excuse for hastening my departure to suit political needs . . Absolutely not .

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  3. I think that in foreseeable circumstances the government isn’t a problem – the process would be governed by doctors and the high court (from memory) and both those bodies work to high ethical standards. The government isn t party to this. The element of choice is also a central tenet that again is protected by thorough investigation by doctors and law. I suppose the concern is that voluntary euthanasia would be the next logical step and for sound reasons for people such as those with degenerative neurological conditions who want to die but to live longer than they have physical capacity to carry out suicide. Overall government wouldn’t be my main concern but rather the slippery slope to broadening access. Again I can see sound ethical reasons to allow voluntary euthanasia in the type of case I’ve mentioned,once you accept assisted suicide. Where it could get scary is if people wanted to make advance directives to be killed with dementia and other similar circumstances, their consent having been given at a time prior to losing capacity. This could perhaps, still be termed voluntary euthanasia, rather than euthanasia. I don’t foresee euthanasia every been introduced. In nazi Germany it was euthanasia that was carried out on some patients. At the point where you have a government that will support this you have entered into a completely different realm where government can’t really be termed as such any more

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  4. Do I trust this government? No. Do I trust some politicians? Yes. But a fair few others, no.
    I’ve listened to many discussions on this, and I’ve found myself swinging from one position to another depending on how persuasive the arguments were.
    And I am not happy with the six months time framework. But having been with a dear and close relation in her last weeks who desperately wanted it all to end as the suffering was terrible, I’m increasingly of a mind that it’s inhumane to make people endure those last awful days. She was a good and faithful Anglican woman – dying, but desperately praying for it all to be over. Now, I may be wrong but I’m told that in early times (pre Shipman) doctors would prescribe very large doses of morphine which would remove the pain, but also hasten death. That doesn’t seem to me to be like assisted dying, just a compassionate easing of suffering. But perhaps it takes the wisdom of Solomon to know if that’s the case. I think I would trust the High Court Judges more. Would I trust the canon lawyers? Jury’s out on that one.

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  5. Last weekend I saw my grandfather for what might be the last time. He cried as he told me ‘they won’t treat me any more, they’re just waiting me to call it a day and agree to go to the hospice’. It’s hard to know what to say to someone facing the end imminently- but it’s clear he resents being on the final track, when he’d like to keep on fighting.

    So I feel like the slope is already rather slippery.

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  6. Thank you for your comments. Rather than replying to each one individually and ending up with more questions, I thought I’d just mention a few general points. I myself have a terminal illness and have watched others die ‘difficult’ deaths, so I am aware of the attraction (not the right word, but I can’t think of another) of the kind of solutions advocates of assisted dying propose. However, as I understand it, the kind of quick, painless injection associated with Dignitas is not what is envisaged but something more complicated and longer drawn-out. The Catholic Church is very clear that we do not have to use extraordinary means of keeping people alive and I wish more people were able to think that through instead of agreeing to evermore invasive treatments. I have been surprised, not in a good way, by some of the people I’ve met in the DTU undergoing chemotherapy only because their families insisted. Finally, although I have the greatest admiration and gratitude towards those who have treated me over the years and appreciate their professionalism, I have also encountered a few who have actually scared me by their prejudice and reluctance to treat a life-threatening condition. The ‘robust controls’ are only as good as the people implementing them. Hence my original question and why I pray for everyone facing the end of their own life or the life of someone they love.

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  7. Here in Canada I have just read in the news of a funeral home having turned a casket viewing room into one for assisted dying. The article states some people who choose medical assistance in dying don’t want to end their lives in a sterile environment such as a hospice or hospital, nor do they want the procedure to take place in their home. So, they can now choose to do so at a funeral home where family and friends are encouraged to bring music, food and perhaps a bottle of wine to mark their loved one’s last day on earth. The photo shows a cross displayed on the wall.

    A staff member of the funeral home said while her own loved one awaited MAID there was another person in the next room awaiting their turn and the article goes further to state the funeral home has received many requests for an alternative site since the procedure has become legal in Canada a number of years ago.

    Whatever an individual’s knee jerk reaction to this article may be, it gives one much to think and pray about.

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