Tuesday 19 May 2009

Society's senior figures urging discrimination against the vulnerable

Yesterday evening the House of Lords debated the Coroners and Justice bill at second reading. A number of Peers made speeches on the subject of assisted suicide. Among those speaking in favour of assisted suicide were two Peers who had been senior ministers during Tony Blair's government, Lord Falconer, former Lord Chancellor, and Baroness Jay, former leader of the House of Lords. Also speaking in favour of assisted suicide was Baroness Warnock, the notorious anti-life philosopher, and a number of anti-life veterans in the Lords.

It has become clear that there is a now a concerted effort by some of society's most senior figures to undermine the law on assisted suicide. Last week, Sir Ken Macdonald, the former director of public prosecutions (DPP), Lord Bingham, former Lord Chief Justice and Sir Philip Havers QC joined together on a radio programme to argue for parliament to change the law. Sir Ken Macdonald told listeners that he would have acted in the same way as Daniel James's parents if he had been in their place, saying: "Who wouldn't have?"

The theme among the anti-life contributors to both the Lords debate and the radio programme was that parliament needs to clarify the law, starting with removing the possibility of prosecution of people who help others to commit suicide overseas. The pro-life movement has seen this strategy before, in the campaign for abortion on demand. The campaign starts with a plea to protect people in desperate circumstances, by regulating hard cases in place of an outright ban. Once this concession is obtained, however, the thin veil of a moderate reform is quickly dropped and pressure is applied for the practice to be made a right.

It is also no surprise that some of society's most senior figures have joined this campaign. The pro-life message is based upon the equality of all human beings upheld by international human rights law, which exists to protect the most vulnerable, despised and rejected. This radical message of equality jars with (at least some of) these privileged establishment personages. For example, Baroness Warnock has said: "I am not ashamed to say that some lives are more worth living than others".

So I'm grateful for the contribution of another, yet different, senior figure, the Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham, who said in the Lords:

"We should not accept any amendments which would relax the existing law and diminish the protection offered to those at risk of self-destruction. Such a step would be wrong in itself. It would also be totally inappropriate in the context of this Bill, which proceeds from the assumption that the existing law is right in seeking to protect life, and needs to be changed in order to do so more effectively in today’s circumstances."