Joint Committee on the Draft Mental Incapacity Bill Written Evidence

68.Memorandum from the Salford Diocesan Fellowship for the Handicapped (MIB 457)

  I write on behalf of the Salford Diocesan Fellowship for the Handicapped with comments on some aspects of the Draft Bill being considered by your committee. The Fellowship has many members with learning disabilities, some of whom are profoundly disabled. We have a particular interest in any legislation, which could affect their rights.

  1.  We firstly express concern that so little time has been granted for written submissions to be made, particularly over the busy holiday season, when it is not easy for organisations to collect the views of members.

  2.  Many of our members do not have the "capacity" to make decisions about their own care. We believe strongly that they have the same right to life and preservation of life as any other human being and view with dismay proposals in the Bill, which could make them even more vulnerable to the misguided decisions of others.

  3.  Whilst we support totally the view that people should be allowed to die with dignity, we are strongly opposed to the proposal that the withdrawal of food and fluids is in the best interests of people. Planned death by dehydration of terminally ill, elderly and incapacitated people is completely unacceptable. We do not believe that this is in anybody's "best interests". The medical profession is still not able to judge the degree of suffering endured by mentally impaired or unresponsive people from whom fluids are withdrawn. Far from improving an individuals comfort, it contributes to the suffering.

  4.  This Bill will in effect create the climate that euthanasia by neglect or omission is lawful. This devalues human life. It is only a step away from deciding that the life of any person who is mentally impaired can be terminated.

August 2003

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