Government rejects call for a review into assisted suicide, after strong opposition from MPs

Strong opposition from MPs has resulted in the Government rejecting calls for a review on assisted suicide despite the best efforts from large pressure groups in favour of assisted suicide.

This follows the news that an attempt to introduce assisted suicide to the Isle of Man has failed

MPs received thousands of emails from constituents ahead of the debate urging them to attend and speak in opposition to the assisted suicide lobby’s campaign.

A large turnout of MPs, including Sir Desmond Swayne, Sir John Hayes, Fiona Bruce, Dr Lisa Cameron, Andrew Selous and Martin Vickers spoke strongly against assisted suicide in the debate. 

Fiona Bruce, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Pro-Life Group, said disability groups are “extremely concerned” about what has happened in other countries that have introduced assisted suicide legislation. 

She noted that in the US State of Oregon the majority of those applying for assisted suicide now cite “fear of being a burden” as their major end-of-life concern. Adding that “far fewer cite pain concerns.” 

In Canada, “under the 2016 law that has allowed terminally ill people to request assisted suicide and euthanasia, safeguards have been ignored, removed and extended to non-terminally ill people such as those with depression.”

“In July a depressed but otherwise healthy man was killed by lethal injection, despite not being terminally ill. Another man who suffers from a neurological disease actually recorded hospital staff offering him a medically assisted death, despite repeated statements that he did not want to die. 

“Only this week, on Tuesday, there was an article in The Times about three Belgian doctors on trial in relation to the euthanasia of someone reported to have a personality disorder and autism. The family believes that she was depressed but that she did not, as required by Belgian law, have a serious and incurable disorder.”

In these cases, she said: “The point to note is that, regardless of the wording of eligibility criteria in legislation, in practice safeguards are often discarded, and vulnerable and depressed people are assisted to end their lives.”

“Rather than assisting vulnerable people to commit suicide, or administering euthanasia, we should be looking to improve palliative care provision and mental health treatment… Marie Curie estimates that 25% of cancer patients do not currently get the palliative care that they need.”

Rounding off her speech, she exclaimed: “The UK is a pioneer in palliative medicine and a world leader in palliative care. Let us keep it that way!”

A large number of MPs mirrored Fiona’s call for improved mental-health and palliative care, over the introduction of an extreme assisted suicide law, in a renewed effort to assist people to live. 

Dr Lisa Cameron, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Disability, said: “Often, when people face debilitating illness or very difficult life events, suicide may come to their minds. Does she agree that at such times, we should provide better mental health support, psychological support and counselling to enable people to come to terms with their feelings and look much more positively towards their abilities and the contribution they make?” 

Expressing his concerns about a potential review into the law on assisted suicide, Jim Shannon argued: “The answer is not legalising assisted suicide. The answer is to help, to support and to be compassionate towards families. Does she acknowledge the good work that is done by many charities, particularly Macmillan, whose compassion and love make the unimaginable a little bit more bearable?”

His fellow DUP colleague, Ian Paisley, continued this point by saying: “We should be asking the positive, strong question: how much palliative care and support can we give people at the greatest point of need?”

He added: “We parliamentarians should be prepared to offer hope to people, not to say, as others have said, ‘You’re now a burden. It’s time to shuffle off this mortal coil.’” 

Baroness Finlay has introduced an Access to Palliative Care and Treatment of Children Bill to the House of Lords. This bill aims to highlight the necessity of speciality training for palliative care; to ensure that children, babies, and those with learning disabilities receive palliative care; and, the responsibility of Clinical Commissioning Groups to identify, fund support and provide services to those with palliative care needs.

Other concerns raised by MPs included the change it would bring in the relationship between a doctor and a patient. 

Martin Vickers MP said the relationship between a doctor and patient is one the UK should treasure. “Rather than opening the door to assisting us to die, patients—all of us—need to have confidence that our medical professionals are striving to keep us in good health and alive,” he added.

Extending this point, Sir Desmond Swayne MP noted the large number of assisted suicide deaths in the Netherlands and asked wether we are prepared to “fundamentally change the nature of the medical profession, when the clinician who brings healing is also the clinician who brings death?”

Another argument made by MPs was the valuation of life, and how legalising assisted suicide would fundamentally change how we value life as a society. Making this point was Sir John Hayes MP who said: “Although life, as I have described it, is momentary, each moment is precious. The life of profoundly disabled people is precious, and the life of those weak, wizened, sick and infirm people is precious.”

Highlighting how the valuation of life would change, Andrew Selous MP said: “We need to be very careful to ensure that old and sick people do not feel a pressure to end their lives, perhaps from their children, who might want to inherit their assets and to whom they may feel they are being a burden.”

Not a single doctors group or major disability rights organisation in the UK supports changing the law, including the British Medical Association, the Royal College of General Practitioners, the Royal College of Physicians, the British Geriatric Society and the Association for Palliative Medicine.    

Parliament has consistently rejected attempts by the assisted suicide lobby to introduce assisted suicide, with 330 to 118 voting against introducing assisted suicide in 2015. 

Assisted suicide pressure groups cite a poll that shows there is widespread support for legislation of assisted suicide, yet experts have heavily criticised the polling as deeply flawed. In fact, when asked questions that drill down into the merits of the debate, the percentage of those in support drops dramatically.

Westminster votes to force abortion on NI. 13 weeks left for people of Northern Ireland to stop introduction of extreme abortion regime

MPs have voted 328 – 65 to force more extreme abortion laws on Northern Ireland than the rest of the UK.

The vote took place yesterday (18/07) in the final stages of Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Bill. MPs cast a single vote for a group of amendments to the Northern Ireland Bill which included a radical abortion amendment that was added in the House of Lords. The vote against was lower than the vote on the Creasy amendment last week, this is likely because the group of amendments included a number of other issues.

This focus now moves to Northern Ireland where, should the Executive in Stormont reform before October 21st, it is possible that all amendments to the Northern Ireland Bill could be rejected.

Nigel Dodds said: “[This amendment] makes abortion legal for absolutely any reason, including gender and disability, until a legal presumption of 28 weeks.”

This assessment is based on the fact that the amendment seeks to remove sections 58 and 59 of the Offences Against the Person Act (1861), which protects unborn life. In which case, the only legal protection for unborn children left would be the Criminal Justice Act (Northern Ireland) 1945 which only applies from 28-weeks gestation. This, would make abortion readily available for any reason – including discriminatory abortions based on gender and disability – up until 28 weeks.

This would make the abortion law in Northern Ireland more extreme than in the rest of the UK where abortion is available until 24 weeks and, as an important safeguard, must be signed off by two doctors. No such requirement would exist if this abortion amendment passes in Northern Ireland.

The amendments have been heavily criticised across both Houses of Parliament for being out of scope of the Bill, which was supposed to be concerned with extending the period for the formation of an Executive in Northern Ireland.

During the debate Ian Paisley MP said the Bill has been “hijacked” by these amendments, adding that it was “an outrage to common decency in Northern Ireland.”

A number of other MPs and Conservative MP Fiona Bruce, criticised the fact that, due to the fast-tracking of this Bill – it proceeded through both Houses of Parliament in only two weeks – there was a lack of public and parliamentary scrutiny, as well as little substantive discussion on abortion itself.

Bruce pointed out that 100,000 people are alive today because Northern Ireland did not adopt the 1967 Abortion Act – a figure backed up by the Advertising Standards Association – and that in just four days, over 19,000 people residents of Northern Ireland signed a letter objecting to the imposition of abortion on the region in this manner.

“If we read that across to the British mainland, that is the equivalent of 500,000 signing a petition in a matter of four days,”  Paisley added

Paisley, along with a number of other MPs, criticised the manner in which the abortion amendment was forced onto this Bill saying it was undemocratic, an attack on devolution and lacking proper scrutiny.

Fiona Bruce MP added:

“The way in which the issue of abortion and, indeed, the Bill has been handled has been, I believe, unconstitutional, undemocratic, legally incoherent and utterly disrespectful to the people of Northern Ireland, yet the Government are pressing on today with just a derisory one hour’s debate. That is despite the fact that abortion is a devolved policy area and a hugely controversial issue, and despite the shamefully limited scrutiny time we have already had.”

Deputy leader of the DUP Nigel Dodds, echoed concerns regarding devolution saying:

“Either we have direct rule and legislate on all those areas, or we respect devolution—we cannot have it both ways…”

Clare McCarthy from Right To Life UK said:

“The people of Northern Ireland have thirteen weeks to stop the introduction of one of the worlds most extreme abortion regimes to the province.

“Many thousands of people in Northern Ireland are deeply angered and distressed by this action by the Westminster Parliament. The manner in which MPs from Westminster have attempted to impose abortion on a people that do not want it, and who they do not represent, is grossly disrespectful and unconstitutional. 

“This horrific abortion law can be stopped. It is up to the people of Northern Ireland to ensure that Stormont reconvenes in order to protect the thousands of lives that would otherwise be lost if this extreme abortion law came into effect.