As posted by Not Dead Yet
- There is, in fact, a Private Member’s bill, in the name of Lord Falconer, before the House of Lords at this moment proposing just that. Professor Hawking believes that “there must be safeguards that the person concerned genuinely wants to end their life and they are not being pressurised into it”. This is a fair enough caution to sound. What is remarkable, however, is that Lord Falconer’s ‘assisted dying’ bill does not contain any specific safeguards to ensure that these and other conditions are met.
- Professor Hawking states that “human beings should not be allowed to suffer any more than animals”. This is a well-worn argument of the euthanasia lobby – that we put down suffering animals out of kindness, so why don’t we do the same for humans? But what those who use this argument seem to overlook is that people don’t always take their pets to be put down out of compassion: they sometimes do so because they are a nuisance or because they are proving expensive to treat or to feed. Is that the sort of society we want to see?
- Those of us with disabilities are all too familiar with the view that
many in society take of us – that they wouldn’t want to live with our
limitations and that our lives are less worth living than the lives of
others. I myself have encountered such attitudes: I have been told that
‘people like me’ do ‘a good job’, I have had it put to me by a medic that
I should not have children and I have even been patted on the head by a
colleague. The Paralympics, in which I have had the opportunity to
participate, is sadly an all too rare occasion in which people with
disabilities are valued.
- Legalising ‘assisted dying’ for terminally ill people illness reinforces prejudices about people with disabilities. Terminal illness and physical disability aren’t, of course, the same thing – many people with disabilities aren’t terminally ill. But terminal illness can often bring with it disability of one kind or another and it’s not a big step in popular perceptions to see the two as in some way linked.
- That’s why the majority of people with disabilities, including me,
are afraid of a law that would offer a lesser standard of protection to
seriously ill people than to others. Anyone who is inclined to discount
such fears should read the report of Lord Falconer’s self-styled
‘commission on assisted dying’: it is on the recommendations of this
unofficial and self-appointed group that his Private Member’s bill rests.
Their report recommends that physician-assisted suicide should not be
offered to people with disabilities who are not terminally ill “at this
point in time“. It is those italicised words that send a chill down
the spine of many people with physical disabilities. Lord Falconer’s
‘assisted dying’ bill may be well-intended. But it risks becoming a law
to cater for the strong rather than to protect the weak.