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Writer of “Bed Blocker Blues” denies supporting assisted suicide: “I’m totally against assisted dying”

John Cooper Clarke, TV presenter, poet and comedian, has spoken out in opposition to assisted suicide in a conversation with The Telegraph.

The 75-year-old stated “I’m totally against assisted dying”.

He went on to say “I’m sure people have the most heartbreaking tales to tell but extreme cases make for bad legislation. The whole issue is literally a matter of life and death, and in Europe, where it’s legal, we’re already seeing a mission creep where people are ending their lives for things like incurable depression”.

“Just because someone is feeling a bit hopeless that’s no reason to kill them or help them to kill themselves, and to make it worse it’s dressed up in the language of human rights, as if there were some kind of liberation to it”, he added. “I just don’t see how helping people die improves life as we know it”.

The poet’s comments come after some have suggested his poem “Bed Blocker Blues”, which describes the ageing process and references euthanasia, might be a statement in support of assisted suicide.

Most recently, Dame Esther Rantzen has said that she has joined Dignitas and may go to Switzerland to seek assisted suicide should her lung cancer treatment not improve her condition.

Public support for assisted suicide remains mixed in spite of advocates claiming widespread support

Assisted suicide advocates frequently cite polling commissioned and funded by assisted suicide campaigning group, Dignity in Dying, which shows a large majority of the general public support a change in the law. This group has repeated this polling a number of times with similar wording for the questions.

Academics have been highly critical of this polling, with two experts from the respected Institute for Social and Economic Research at Essex University saying that the polling was ‘skewed and ambiguous’. 

Media coverage of the review of the polling outlined that “The survey… failed to give people the option to say they were ‘don’t knows’. Instead it pushed them into giving answers in favour of assisted dying by asking over-long and leading questions using loaded language – such as saying that assisted dying would help those in ‘unbearable suffering’. Answers in favour of assisted dying were placed first among the options for people considering the questions…”.

Polling from overseas shows that when the words ‘assisted suicide’ are used in polls, the majority in favour of introducing assisted suicide falls, sometimes by up to 20%. 

Whether respondents to a poll are exposed to counterarguments to the introduction of assisted suicide also appears to have an impact on the percentages of respondents who state they support introducing assisted suicide. In one poll, undertaken by Savanta ComRes, of people in England, Scotland and Wales, support for assisted suicide dropped from 73% to 43% when respondents were presented with counterarguments. A poll that was run only in Scotland showed similar results.

Polling from Savanta ComRes found that 51% of people, when asked if they “would be concerned that some people would feel pressurised into accepting help to take their own life so as not to be a burden on others if assisted suicide were legal”,  said yes. Only 25% disagreed.

In the same poll, 48% surveyed said that giving GPs “the power to help patients commit suicide” would “fundamentally change the relationship between a doctor and patient, since GPs are currently under a duty to protect and preserve the lives of patients”. Just 23% of people disagreed with that statement. 

Spokesperson for Right To Life UK, Catherine Robinson, said “It is encouraging to hear of a public figure such as John Cooper Clarke speaking out in opposition to assisted suicide, when so often the dominant voice in the media is to the contrary. Hopefully, this will encourage more celebrities to express their views in support of life, as these figures can often influence their audiences”.

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MPs will shortly vote on proposed changes to the law, brought forward by Labour MPs Stella Creasy and Diana Johnson, that would introduce the biggest change to our abortion laws since the Abortion Act was introduced in 1967.

These proposed changes to the law would make it more likely that healthy babies are aborted at home for any reason, including sex-selective purposes, up to birth.

Polling undertaken by ComRes, shows that only 1% of women support introducing abortion up to birth and that 91% of women agree that sex-selective abortion should be explicitly banned by the law.

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