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Action: Urge Peers to Oppose Falconer Assisted Suicide Bill

On Friday 18th July, Lord Falconer’s Assisted Dying Bill will be debated in the House of Lords at its second Reading. There will be a free vote because it is not Government legislation. If the Bill is passed it would place vulnerable people – the disabled, sick and elderly in the UK – at serious risk. Please write as soon as possible and certainly before the 18th July to a Peer to tell them your views, ask them to give you a commitment to care for vulnerable people rather then resort to assisted suicide, and urge them to attend any debates that are had on the Falconer bill and vote against it.

There are 778 Peers. The best way to choose which ones to write to is to use the Parliamentary website’s list of members of the House of Lords, and pick five Peers at random (preferably having different first letters in their surnames from each other). The reason for only five is that if Parliament receives more than six e-mails that are the same, it deletes all of them, so best to take a cautious approach. Then send the e-mail to the e-mail addresses of each of the Peers you’ve chosen.

Alternatively you can also e-mail contactholmember@parliament.uk with the Peer you addressing in the title of each e-mail (e.g. ‘To: Lord Allen of Kensington regarding Falconer Bill’).

If you prefer, you can write a letter to Peers (and to as many as you like!) instead by using this address:

[Name of Peer, e.g. ‘Lord Allen of Kensington’]
House of Lords
London
SW1A 0PW

Once you have the five Lords you have chosen to contact, the Parliamentary website gives information as to how to write an e-mail (or letter of any description) to a Lord.

Please also write to your MPs to express your concerns about the Bill, and to urge them to sign the parliamentary motion EDM 86 which opposes the Bill.

When writing either to Peers or to your MP, here are some salient points about the Bill that you can use in expressing your concerns:

  • The Falconer bill is based on the system of assisted suicide used in the U.S. state of Oregon. The Oregon State Public Health Division brings out an Annual Report each year, and in 1998, the year in which the ‘Death with Dignity’ act, legalising assisted suicide in Oregon took effect, it reported that 13% of patients applying for medication to commit suicide did so because they were frightened of being a burden on their families. This percentage has increased since to the extent that in 2012 over four times more patients (57.1%) were opting for assisted suicide for fear of being a burden on their families. In Washington state, which also uses a similar system, the most recent figure for this reason cited by those opting for assisted suicide is 61%. This illustrates the degree to which a so-called ‘right to die’ (more accurately a right to be killed) can in fact become a duty to die.
  • The so-called ‘safeguards’ in the Falconer Bill are far too lax to protect from abuse. The requirement that two Doctors must ascertain that those presenting for assisted suicide have a clear, settled, voluntary intention to do so is the same system used in the Abortion Act 1967. Whatever a Parliamentarian thinks of the issue of abortion, they have to recognise that the two Doctor requirement is largely abused. Moreover, the Falconer Bill relies on both Doctors knowing the patient well enough, and their families, to be able to evaluate their intentions, mental capacity, and freedom from duress such as subtle familial pressure. Given the relationship between most patients and even their GPs, this is incredibly unrealistic.
  • The Falconer Bill itself requires the person committing suicide to have mental capacity, and to commit the action that kills them – pushing a plunger, or pressing a button. This would exclude the well-publicised hard cases of this issue (e.g. people who have Alzheimer’s or who are paraplegic), but would endanger the lives of many more vulnerable people.
  • The introduction of assisted suicide is opposed by almost every major medical body, as well as leading palliative care organisations, and campaigning groups for the elderly and disabled: the Royal College of Physicians, the Royal College of General Practitioners, the British Medical Association (who recently re-affirmed their position), the World Medical Association, Age UK, the British Geriatric Society, Disability Rights UK, Scope, the UK Disabled People’s Council, and Not Dead Yet UK.

For further arguments that you can utilise regarding this bill, please read the excellent analysis provided by Living and Dying Well.