Wednesday 3 June 2009

Culture of neglect of the elderly will add to assisted suicide death-toll

An inquest into the death of Harry Denton (pictured), an elderly man with Alzheimer's, has heard claims that carers left him alone at home without food or drink for five days before he died in hospital of pneumonia. As the case is currently under inquest, I don't propose to comment further on the reported claims. What I wish to underscore is that there is evidence of a culture of neglect in Britain of elderly, disabled and vulnerable people; and that such neglect will become more common if assisted suicide is allowed.

People with degenerative diseases, or in advanced age, will feel under pressure to agree to an assisted suicide, with the implicit or even explicit message that it's better that they agree to die before they become too much of a burden. As Baroness Warnock said in September:
"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 ... [I]f somebody absolutely, desperately wants to die because they're a burden to their family, or the state, then I think they too should be allowed to die ... [T]here's nothing wrong with feeling you ought to do so for the sake of others as well as yourself."
Dame Joan Bakewell, the anti-life broadcaster appointed by Harriet Harman to be a 'Voice for Older People', has referred sinisterly to "an old age that brings with it all the humiliations of being helpless, incontinent and in pain."

And in a parliamentary debate in November, Baroness Greengross spoke of people "losing their dignity at the end of life".

So some of the most prominent and senior figures in our society are already trying to convince the vulnerable that they would be better off dead, shamelessly exploiting them for political capital in the parliamentary campaign to legalise assisted suicide. Let's stop that campaign in its tracks - please see and act today upon SPUC's action alert on the Coroners and Justice bill.