Wednesday 9 July 2008

Resisting euthanasia at the bedside

I was very moved to read about a religious brother in the US who describes his experience and insights gained from caring for a brain-damaged member of his community for over 12 years. Brother Paul O'Donnell rejected both medical and church authorities' advice that he should allow Brother Michael to be dehydrated and starved to death.

Brother Paul effectively resisted euthanasia at the bedside of his fellow brother where it was most effective. This is where we need to resist euthanasia. And Patients First Network (logo, right) is doing exactly that. By supporting and advising the friends and relatives of patients who are at risk of euthanasia by neglect, Patients First Network is enabling ordinary people to mount a bedside resistance to a premature and distressing death for their loved ones.

A "coma stimulation programme" was developed by Brother Paul to help Brother Michael, although the doctors poured scorn on this loving care. It is a reality here too, that sick and disabled people are likely only to receive such dignified and individual treatment from friends or relatives, because hospitals have lost sight of this.

Alison Davis of No Less Human (NLH) can testify to this. NLH is a group within SPUC of disabled people and their carers which upholds the right to life and dignity of disabled people. Members of NLH show us all that the critical ingredients needed to look after vulnerable people are love and compassion. Sadly these are in very short supply in our hospitals.

We are going through a difficult time in our country's history with euthanasia by neglect enshrined in law through the Mental Capacity Act. My colleagues and I at SPUC's London headquarters want to speak in localities around Britain to explain how we can re-establish and re-build a campaigning movement which defends the sanctity of human life from conception to the grave. Resisting euthanasia at the bedside and how to go about it through Patients First Network will be one of our most important messages.

Please contact me by emailing to arrange a meeting in your area.