Does the Public Really Understand the ‘Right to Die’ Debate?

With the prospect of Rob Marris MP’s private members bill bringing the possibility of legislation to legalise ‘Assisted Dying’ back on the table, the question must be asked, does the general public really understand the implications of what this means for everyone involved?

This new law will for the first time make it legal for a specific section of the population of civil society to be killed, understanding it is currently illegal to commit murder or suicide, because society, in the guise of the judicial system, regard them as having a quality of life that no longer warrants a continuation of their life, based on medical labels. This means if the law was implemented properly, a judge will have to decide if someone is better off dead.

More importantly the bill does not give the ‘right to die’, as we all have this right as an event no one can escape from, but rather the ‘right to be killed’, even if that is providing a prescription of lethal medication. Once we have one reason to justify what is in any other context, murder, then we are starting a slippery slope to justify other forms of killings within civil society, outside the realms of war.

Those in favour of this form of civilised killing state the many safeguards proposed to ensure it is only used in the right way, but I think they are naive to how it will work in the real world. I recently attended a research project meeting on ‘Do not Resuscitate’ (DNR) directives and it made me realised how complex they were. When are they implemented? At what stage do you ask a patient if they want one? How long do they last? What happens if a patient changes their mind? And how is this recorded?

From the meeting I reached a personal conclusion that hospitals will have made mistakes in terms of DNRs, some with fatal consequences, especially with all the paperwork involved, and the different ways each hospital will deal with the issue. I suddenly realised that if hospitals had to deal with patients requests to be killed, for a better term, it is going to be a costly mess, full of confusion and misunderstanding, especially when you consider families often demand a say.

The middle class in their Bupa Hospitals may be able to pay for their killings, and ensure it comes with strawberries and a glass of champagne. However, for the average person, ‘assisted dying’ is going to be a bureaucratic minefield. Once the NHS is asked to implement killings, shortcuts and mistakes are more than likely. And as families already seen to have a lot of say in some treatment plans, it will not be long before killings become a family decision, not just the patients. And will overworked underpaid NHS staff have the time for the lengthy consultation processes proposed? Or will they just sign off on what the ‘carers’ say the patient wants?

It is a fear disabled people like myself have, because we have witnessed how health and social care systems have and continue to fail people. There have been a few times in my life where I have needed enormous determination and sheer stubbornness not to end up on a conveyor belt to emotional nothingness, with nothing left in me but to be the victim as others had chosen for me. If ‘assisted dying’ ends up on the table, and the welfare rhetoric of the left wing continues to desire the exclusion of disabled people, it would be so easy to use ‘fairness and compassion’ to reach a point where the final solution becomes the right solution.

This is why Rob Marris has become public enemy number one for many disabled people, as we sharpen our knifes and polish our guns, metaphorically of course, in readiness for the battle ahead, as we literally battle for our lives.

from Simon Stevens

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