Memorandum by ALERT
ALERT is an organisation funded only by donations
from people in this country. The newsletter is circulated to about
700 people. It was founded in December 1991 to provide well-documented
information on, and to warn people of, the dangers of euthanasia
legislation and pro-death initiatives, and to defend the lives
and rights of the medically vulnerable, recognising that all human
beings are of equal value.
1. PURPOSE OF
"To enable a competent adult . . . to receive
medical assistance to die . . ." "Assistance to die"
is explained in Section 1, paragraph (2) as meaning providing
the patient with the means to end the patient's life or ending
the patient's life . . .
Providing the patient with the means to end
his/her life is formal co-operation in suicide, or indirect killing.
Ending the patient's life is direct killing of a person. To kill,
breaks the most basic principle or morality. To authorise killing
of the innocent would be brutal, barbaric and uncivilised, and
no supposed subsidiary good effect could possibly justify it.
Medicine is the science and art dealing with the maintenance of
health and the prevention, alleviation, or cure of disease (Webster's
Medical Desk Dictionary 1986). Causing death is the antithesis
of medicine. The phrase "Medical assistance to die"
is therefore contradictory and meaningless. Section 1, paragraphs
(1) and (2), however, state that it shall be lawful for a physician
to "assist a patient. . . to die." The wrong would be
aggravated by the fact that that it was carried out by a physicianone
who has dedicated himself to the service of the life and health
of his patients. The Bill would specifically destroy the security
of the doctor/patient relationship and corrupt the profession
It is futile to discuss qualifying conditions,
since there can be no safeguards against permitting an act which
is intrinsically wrong and contrary to the duties of the caring
professions. No amount of legislation can change the evil nature
of the act. Medicine is an inexact science, and unless life is
deliberately ended, the prognosis remains uncertain.
3. OFFER OF
Under this heading may be included the second
section in the introductory paragraph of the Bill: "to make
provision for a person suffering from a terminal illness to receive
pain medication". Palliative care is a part of good medicine
and all patients have a right to it. Free health care is available
to all. It is already lawful for a doctor to give whatever medication
is needed to control pain, even at the risk of shortening the
life of the patient. We wonder why this superfluous clause has
been inserted, and sees it as a red herring, to divert attention
from the real issue.
(SECTIONS 4, 5 & 6)
Any such declaration, as all suicidal intent,
should be seen as a cry for help and not taken at face value and
acted upon, since it is as intrinsically wrong. At present assisting
suicide is a felony and rightly so, for although suicide itself
is not punishable in British law, suicide can never be a right.
It remains a gravely wrong and inhuman way of dealing with problems
of life. For the House of Lords to ever suggest the opposite is
a derogation of its duty to protect the rights of all citizens
especially the vulnerable.
5. DUTIES OF
This section in effect adds a compulsory aspect
to the legislation in overriding a physician's conscience. To
follow his conscience is the first duty of any moral individual
and a good conscience is essential to the practice of medicine.
If laws are immoral it becomes a duty to disobey them. Such a
clause makes the Bill all the more harmful, in presenting as a
duty what is by nature reprehensible. Dr Shipman's actions were
universally condemned, and to suggest that doctors may act in
this manner, albeit with the consent of the patient, will change
forever the face of British medicine.
6. SECTIONS 8
We did not see any point in discussing these
proposed regulations since, as stated above, no amount of legislation
can change the evil nature of the act.
The concept of assisted suicide is abhorrent.
We would rather see the House of Lords discussing the development
of care services for the aged and the seriously ill.
8. POWER TO
We quote William L. Shirer, who interviewed
a Nazi judge condemned to death at the Nuremberg trials. The judge
broke down and cried saying "How could it have come to this?"
William Shirer responded: "Herr Judge, it came to this the
first time you authorised the killing of an innocent life."
9. TITLE AND
ALERT is astounded that 10 years after the Select
Committee on Medical Ethics of the House of Lords decided that
euthanasia was unacceptable, such a Bill should have serious consideration.
10. FURTHER EVIDENCE
We would be pleased to be invited to give oral
evidence to the Select Committee.
We attach a paper on the case of Michael P Freeland
demonstrating the confusion in evaluating suicidal patients with
serious medical illnesses in the climate of the legislation in
27 August 2004