The assisted-suicide debate begins with a contest over language, a war over a word. That word is ‘dignity.’ The Swiss assisted suicide clinic, where every eight days one Briton travels to die, is called Dignitas. In 2006, the Voluntary Euthanasia Society changed its name to Dignity in Dying. And Oregon’s 1998 liberalising law – the model for the legislation Baroness Meacher is proposing in this country – was called the Death with Dignity Act.
The effect of co-opting the word ‘dignity’ is to imply if you have a terminal illness and want to maintain dignity at the end of your life you will choose assisted suicide. The disastrous implication of this is illness can be undignified.