Joint Committee on the Draft Mental Incapacity Bill Written Evidence

46.Memorandum from Mrs Dominica Roberts, Pro Life Alliance (MIB 16)

  1.  Although much of this draft bill is useful and helpful, there are several clauses which would inevitably be abused as they stand.

  2.  There may well be cases where the opinion of doctors or of a patient is that intrusive treatment to prolong life is unreasonably painful or disagreeable, but it should be made clear that deliberately ending a life, either actively or by withdrawing artificially provided nutrition and hydration, can never be in the patient's best interests.

  3.  The bias should always be that a patient wishes to continue living, unless (as with someone able to make his or her wishes known) he or she has made a very recent, clearly worded, and properly informed decision to refuse treatment, or has shown clearly that an earlier wish is still valid. Advance directives to withhold treatment in certain circumstances are obviously dangerous. It is a very common experience indeed that people think they would not wish to go on living in certain circumstances, but find that they feel differently when it actually happens.

  4.  The same applies to disabled people, who usually wish to go on living just as much as the able-bodied (or more, since I understand the suicide rate is lower) and are often affronted by the implication that their lives are worthless and that they would wish to die.

  5.  Patients and their representatives should be able to say "Please do resuscitate, or do continue the treatment". There have been several cases where medical staff have thought a patient, eg a handicapped child, not worth saving even by quite ordinary means, in spite of the parents' wishes.

  6.  Every single case of a decision which might hasten death should be recorded as such, and the doctor should be answerable to a specific small panel of doctors, whose job it would be to look out for abuses. Whether one thinks easy abortion a good or a bad thing, no one denies that in 1967 it was intended only for the very hard cases and is now on demand for objectively trivial reasons. It is no one's job to check whether an aborted baby was in fact handicapped, or whether a woman would actually have been likely to be harmed at all by continuing the pregnancy. Similar abuses would inevitably happen if the idea of death being in a patient's best interests was legalised.

  Decisions under the bill about sterilisation or abortion should also be recorded as such and have to be justified to a panel of doctors (though we would maintain that neither of these can ever be in the interests of the patient or her baby). Information about the numbers of such cases should be publicly available and easily accessible.

  7.  A close companion's belief that the patient would have changed his earlier wish not to survive, or that he has done so but is unable to convey this to a stranger, should be persuasive against an earlier declaration by the patient.

  8.  Similarly, to an offence under section 32 it should be a defence that the person alleged to have concealed or destroyed an advance directive honestly believed the patient to have changed his decision. It is not at all difficult to imagine a situation where a long-time partner might confidently know this by signs imperceptible to a stranger and difficult to prove, hence "honestly" rather than "reasonably".

  9.  The draft bill in its present form encourages medical killing, euthanasia, of vulnerable patients. The alleged "safeguards" are worthless.

August 2003


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