Saturday, 4 July 2009

Elderly will be even less safe from abuse if assisted suicide ban removed

An elderly lady was dehydrated to death in a private care home in London, her daughter has claimed. The Daily Mail reports that Jeanne Matthews, 80, suffered extreme dehydration, being given as little as a thimbleful of water a day.

Apart from the frequent reports of neglect of the elderly, we shouldn't forget that euthanasia by neglect is now enshrined in English law, by the Mental Capacity Act 2005. The Act builds upon court rulings which have condemned mentally incapacitated patients to death by dehydration and starvation. If assisted suicide also becomes part of English law, an additional means of lethal abuse will be opened, for the malicious, the uncaring and the irresponsible to use against the vulnerable.

The facts of Jeanne Matthews' death seem to be obscure and disputed, which is not uncommon in end-of-life cases. We cannot rely upon the medical authorities to report fully and honestly the facts in countries or states where assisted suicide and euthanasia are permitted. It is therefore imperative for the protection of elderly and other vulnerable patients that assisted suicide is banned in English law. Time is running out, as the House of Lords will debate amendments on assisted suicide as early as this Tuesday, 7 July. Please read and respond to SPUC's action alert.

Comments on this blog? Email them to johnsmeaton@spuc.org.uk

Friday, 3 July 2009

Wise words from doctors' leader on assisted suicide

Following the BMA's vote against assisted suicide on Wednesday, Dr Brian Keighley, deputy chairman of the BMA in Scotland, said:
"It is clear that doctors do not wish to play a role in assisting a patient's death. Assisting patients to die prematurely is not part of the moral ethos or the primary goal of medicine. If the legislation were to be changed, it would have serious negative consequences on the relationship between doctors and their patients. It remains vital that access to the best quality palliative care is available in order to ensure that terminal suffering is properly managed."
Wise words. Please forward them to members of the House of Lords today, because they are likely to debate amendments on assisted suicide on Tuesday - see SPUC's action alert for more information.

Comments on this blog? Email them to johnsmeaton@spuc.org.uk

National petition day against school abortion push

Tomorrow (4 July), hundreds of pro-life campaigners throughout the UK will be seeking signatures from the general public and church-goers for SPUC's petition against the promotion of abortion in schools.

Tony Mullett, the national co-ordinator of the petition day, said:
"The aim of the petition is stop schools being turned into abortion referral centres. Abortions are being arranged for children in schools behind their parents backs and one out of three secondary schools already has a school-based clinic where sex advice can be offered and abortions can be arranged without parents knowing. Successive governments have targeted young people with sex education telling them where to get contraception and abortion advice. But sexual diseases and abortions continue to increase among the young. The policy has failed, and now they are arranging secret abortions, destroying unborn children and leaving young teenage mothers to deal with the aftermath of abortion. It is profoundly evil."
SPUC's goal is to reverse the government's approach and end the promotion of secret abortions through schools.

Comments on this blog? Email them to johnsmeaton@spuc.org.uk

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Senior legal figures oppose assisted suicide amendments

Five senior legal figures have signed a letter to The Times to oppose amendments to the government's Coroners and Justice bill, amendments which would undermine the law against assisted suicide. The five figures are:
  • Lord Mackay of Clashfern, who was Lord Chancellor under Margaret Thatcher
  • Baroness Butler-Sloss, the former president of the Family Division
  • Lord Brennan QC, a deputy High Court judge
  • Lord Carlile QC, the government's independent reviewer of anti-terrorism laws; and
  • Lord Elystan-Morgan, a former solicitor.
The pro-euthanasia lobby cannot claim that this ad hoc group is simply a representation of the pro-life movement. Although Lord Brennan, former president of the Catholic Union, is a prominent defender of pro-life principles, in contrast Lord Mackay is a strong supporter of destructive embryo experimentation, and Baroness Butler-Sloss issued court rulings which allowed the euthanasia of mentally-incapacitated patients.

Their letter reads (in part):
"The State has a fundamental duty to protect the lives of its citizens ... What is now being suggested — a regime for exonerating assistance with suicide in advance of the act and removal of the CPS’s right to investigate after the event — would disturb this balance in favour of persons who might be inclined to encourage and assist others with suicide for other than altruistic reasons."
The coming together of these senior legal figures with such disparate views reflects the widespread opposition to the proposed amendments. Please tell members of the House of Lords about this letter when you contact them about the amendments - please see SPUC's action alert of 6 June.

Comments on this blog? Email them to johnsmeaton@spuc.org.uk

Bishop of Winchester writes against assisted suicide amendments

Michael Scott-Joynt (pictured), the Anglican bishop of Winchester, has written a strong article for the Church of England newspaper against amendments which would undermine the law against assisted suicide. His article is fitting counter-part to Monday's joint letter by religious leaders on the same theme. I provide some key points below, though do read the full article here. Please tell members of the House of Lords about the Bishop of Winchester's article when you contact them about the amendments - please see SPUC's action alert of 6 June. The bishop wrote:
  • "[T]o legalise assistance [in suicide] is surely to encourage it.
  • "Those pressing for a change in the law mainly have in mind a small minority of highly resolute people who argue not just for their own but for everyone’s 'autonomy' over themselves and their own lives. But even these people, let alone the rest of us, are not in reality 'autonomous'; everyone’s life is bound up with, depends upon and influences the lives of others...
  • "Parliament has a particular duty to care for the very many who in illness, pain, fear and loss of their faculties may be more vulnerable, than the resolute and articulate few, to the influence and persuasion of others or indeed to the persuasion of their own care and anxiety for their families...
  • "Parliament also has a duty to defend the integrity and trustworthiness of the medical and nursing professions – again with an eye especially on the need of the most vulnerable to be able to trust those professionally engaged in their care.
  • "[V]ery seriously ill, and dying, people very often continue to be an inspiration and an encouragement, a blessing and a gift, to those around them, especially when they are surrounded by good medical care and by sheer human love and compassion."
Comments on this blog? Email them to johnsmeaton@spuc.org.uk

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

BMA vote against assisted suicide welcome

I've just heard that the British Medical Association (BMA), at its annual representative meeting (ARM) today, has voted against assisted suicide. The delegates voted on the motion:
"That this Meeting would support a change in legislation to:

(i) ensure that those accompanying the patient at an assisted death, but not actively participating, will not be subject to criminal prosecution;

(ii) allow the choice of an assisted death by patients who are terminally ill and who have mental capacity."
Clause (i) was defeated by 52% to 44% (with some abstentions), and clause (ii) lost by a large majority on show of hands.

SPUC is a core member of the Care Not Killing Alliance (CNK) which campaigns against euthanasia. In a press release about the BMA vote, Dr Peter Saunders of CNK said:
"By rejecting this motion today the BMA has affirmed its longstanding opposition to a change in the law and has chosen to stand with the RCP [Royal College of Physicians], the RCGP [Royal College of General Practitioners], the RCN [Royal College of Nursing] and the two thirds of doctors who consistently say in all opinion polls that they do not wish the law to change."
The BMA's vote is of course great news for the cause of life and the defence of the vulnerable, particularly in the light of the amendments proposed to the government's Coroners and Justice bill due to be debated next week (probably on Tuesday, 7 July). Please tell members of the House of Lords about the BMA vote when you write to them to oppose Lord Falconer's amendment - see SPUC's action alert of 6 June.

Comments on this blog? Email them to johnsmeaton@spuc.org.uk

Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Pro-abortion lobbyist admits that a woman's choice does not justify an abortion

Pat Buckley - European Life Network reports that Frances Kissling (pictured), founder of the pro-abortion group Catholics (sic) for a Free Choice, has been roundly condemned by the rest of the pro-abortion lobby for concluding that sometimes a woman shouldn't be allowed to have an abortion. As Pat points out, Ms Kissling's admission undermines the major justification given for so-called abortion rights, namely choice. And as Pat also says,
[Kissling] touches upon a much concealed point about the abortion lobby. It is extreme, its ideological obsession with choice at the expense of any other rights including the right to life renders it so extreme that it would be called fanatical or fundamentalist if it were a religious organisation.
Comments on this blog? Email them to johnsmeaton@spuc.org.uk

Judicial review of Northern Ireland abortion guidance granted

The High Court in Belfast has granted an application to SPUC for a judicial review of the Northern Ireland health department's guidance on abortion.

Speaking to me from outside the court, Liam Gibson of SPUC Northern Ireland said:

"We are very grateful to have the opportunity to present the issues that were not properly examined during the consultation, particularly the recommendations of the Stormont health committee. We hope that the department will now be reasonable and redraft the guidance which were fundamentally flawed and need radical revision."

Mr Justice Weatherup allowed the application on the grounds that:

- the department has erred in law in its view of the law on abortion in Northern Ireland, as summarised in the guidance.

- the guidance is misleading and/or does not accurately portray the law on abortion in Northern Ireland.

- in publishing the guidance in its present form the Department was mistaken in:

  • failing to acknowledge properly the presumptive illegality of abortion in Northern Ireland.
  • failing to recognise properly the rights of the unborn child.
  • failing to provide guidance on, or require investigation into, whether a child which may be aborted is capable of being born alive; and failing to provide instructions for circumstances where a child is capable of being born alive or is aborted alive.
  • providing for "non-directive" counselling which is incompatible with the presumptively criminal nature of abortion in Northern Ireland.
There were also other grounds.

Comments on this blog? Email them to johnsmeaton@spuc.org.uk

Monday, 29 June 2009

Northern Ireland abortion case decision due tomorrow

The High Court in Belfast has heard submissions on SPUC's application for leave to apply for a judicial review of the Northern Ireland Department of Health's guidance on abortion. Having listened to the grounds on which SPUC believes the guidance requires revision, counsel for the health department denied the guidance was improper. The Family Planning Association (FPA) was also represented at the hearing. Mr Justice Weatherup reserved his decision on the application until 10am tomorrow (Tues 30 June).

Comments on this blog? Email them to johnsmeaton@spuc.org.uk

Religious leaders' joint letter against assisted suicide

Dr Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury (Anglican), Vincent Nichols, the archbishop of Westminster (Catholic) and Sir Jonathan Sacks, the Chief Rabbi, have written a joint letter published in today's Telegraph, opposing parliamentary moves to undermine the law against assisted suicide. Among other things, the letter states that Lord Falconer's amendment to government's Coroners and Justice bill, due to debated by the House of Lords
"would surely put vulnerable people at serious risk, especially sick people who are anxious about the burden their illness may be placing on others. Moreover, our hospice movement, an almost unique gift of this country to wider humankind, is the profound and tangible sign of another and better way to cope with the challenges faced by those who are terminally ill."
The fact that the leaders of three of Britain's main religions, representing millions of followers, have come together to sign this letter demonstrates the profound concern that exists in British society about threats to the sanctity of human life. There is widespread disquiet about a growing culture of death in Britain, with euthanasia already allowed in law in some circumstances through the Mental Capacity Act passed in 2005. The amendments proposed by Lord Falconer, Lord Joffe, Lord Alderdice and other peers will serve to threaten the vulnerable with lethal abandonment. Please forward the religious leaders' letter to members of the House of Lords when you write to them to oppose Lord Falconer's amendment - see SPUC's action alert of 6 June.

As an independent human rights organisation, SPUC supports the right of religious leaders to speak out on ethical principles. If an action, especially a public one, is incompatible with religious belief, then religious leaders must be free to point this out. Those who call this interference fail to recognise that the moral law cannot be confined only to certain spheres of activity. Morality has a universal jurisdiction.

As George Pitcher, an Anglican clergyman with a column in The Telegraph, welcoming the religious leaders' letter, points out, contrary to
"the euthanasia lobby [who] would like nothing better than to characterise the issue as a simple choice between religion and secularism"
that
"[m]any a secular humanist will argue that human life is uniquely to be revered and that the best answer to the terminally ill clogging up our health service isn't necessarily to help them to kill themselves."
Dignity in Dying (DID), i.e. the Voluntary Euthanasia Society (VES), has declared that "assisting non-terminally ill adults to die is wrong", yet Debbie Purdy - whose case DID/VES is supporting - told yesterday's Independent that
"I personally would argue for a law that provided assistance to the incurable/chronically ill who suffer unbearably and have reached the end of their tether."
Mrs Purdy goes on to say that:
"'Assisted suicide' suggests someone giving up. It is always heartbreaking when a person loses faith in her/himself, and family and friends are consumed with regret at not having done 'something'. What we are talking about is 'assisted dying', when someone facing the certainty of death or pain they cannot bear chooses to take control."
Note that Mrs Purdy defines "assisted dying" as not just when
"someones [is] facing the certainty of death"
but also
"when someone [is] facing the certainty of...pain they cannot bear"
So there we have it, de facto admissions that the term "assisted dying" is just a euphemism to replace the negative connotations suggested by the term "assisted suicide", and that non-dying people will be killed if so-called assisted dying is allowed in law.

So congratulations to the three religous leaders for standing up to euthanasia lobby's campaign of caricature and euphemism, a campaign which threatens the vulnerable with lethal abandonment.

So again, please forward the religious leaders' letter to members of the House of Lords when you write to them to oppose Lord Falconer's amendment - see SPUC's action alert of 6 June.

Comments on this blog? Email them to johnsmeaton@spuc.org.uk

Sunday, 28 June 2009

British doctors fight for the right to pray for patients

The BBC reports that at the British Medical Association this week: "Doctors are demanding that NHS staff be given a right to discuss spiritual issues with patients as well as being allowed to offer to pray for them".

Earlier this year, an NHS Trust suspended a nurse for offering to pray for a patient. She was later re-instated. By way of contrast, under the British Government's Mental Capacity Act, doctors who refuse to kill their patients, in certain circumstances, may face litigation and possibly criminal conviction; and anti-life politicians such as Evan Harris MP and Baroness Warnock are exploiting the current legal regime - in Mr Harris's case, to justify lethal dose assisted suicide and, in Baroness Warnock's case, to argue that people with disabling conditions have a duty to die prematurely. As she put it last year: "If you're demented, you're wasting people's lives – your family's lives – and you're wasting the resources of the National Health Service."

British visitors to my blog who are concerned that their friends and relatives may be at risk of euthanasia by neglect should contact Patients First Network (logo, right) which seeks to enable ordinary people to mount a bedside resistance to a premature and distressing death for their loved ones.

Comments on this blog? Email them to johnsmeaton@spuc.org.uk