Wednesday 4 November 2009

University debate exposed the euthanasia lobby's duplicity

On Monday evening Anthony Ozimic, SPUC's communications manager, debated at University College London (UCL) against assisted suicide. The motion before the UCL Debating Society was: "That this House would legalise assisted dying". Speaking along with Anthony was Dr Peter Saunders, director of the Care Not Killing Alliance. Speaking in favour of the motion was Sarah Wootton, the pro-abortion veteran who now heads the Voluntary Euthanasia Society (VES) (which now trades under the euphemism "Dignity in Dying") and Dr Simon Kenwright, a gastroenterologist.

Anthony tells me that Sarah Wootton claimed the VES:
  • only supports "assisted dying" (in reality assisted suicide) for terminally-ill, mentally competent patients
  • does not support "assisted suicide on demand"
  • will never support non-voluntary euthanasia.
Anthony countered these claims by pointing that:
  • the VES supported the legal campaign of Debbie Purdy, who has multiple sclerosis (MS), which is not a terminal illness. The VES also supported the case of the late Daniel James, who was paralysed (not terminally-ill), whose parents took him to Switzerland for assisted suicide
  • Sarah Wootton wrote recently in The Guardian that the VES does not campaign for assisted suicide, yet qualified that in her debate speech by adding "on demand"
  • the VES supports the law in The Netherlands, which entails non-voluntary and involuntary euthanasia. The VES also supports the ruling in the case of Tony Bland, which allowed non-voluntary euthanasia.
Sarah Wootton tried to counter Anthony's rebuttals by claiming that:
  • Debbie Purdy's type of MS is a terminal one, though one which may not kill her within a year
  • the VES didn't support the Daniel James case
  • the Bland case was very different, because it was about keeping severely brain-damaged people alive, and the Bland judgment is now the current law under the Mental Capacity Act.
She also tried to address the issue of the law in The Netherlands, but her answer was too indirect to make it worth describing. (In any case, the VES's website claims that the situation in The Netherlands is good.)

Anthony says that Sarah Wootton's defences are false:
  • There is no indication that Debbie Purdy is terminally ill. People with MS and societies representing them are forced frequently to correct media statements that MS is a terminal illness.
  • According to Lord Joffe's assisted suicide bill (which was backed by the VES), terminal illness "means an illness which will be likely to result in the patient’s death within a few months at most".
  • For legal purposes (such as life insurance), terminal illness means that "life expectancy is less than 12 months".
  • Sarah Wootton has played this game before: in The Guardian she claimed that the VES "campaign[s] for the choice of assisted dying for the terminally ill within strict safeguards." In the very next sentence, she wrote: "...for the choice of assistance to die for those who are suffering, competent to make the decision and are already dying." Yet "terminally-ill" and "dying" are two different terms. To be dying is to have hours or days to live - to be terminally-ill is to have up to a year to live. And, according to Sarah Wootton's definition of "terminally ill", Debbie Purdy - who will almost certainly live for many years more - is already dying! Edward Turner, a board-member and spokesman for the VES, accompanied Dr Ann Turner, his mother, to her assisted suicide at Dignitas. Sarah Wootton, again writing in The Guardian, again falsely claimed that a degenerative disease (in Dr Turner's case, progressive supranuclear palsy) was a terminal illness.
  • The VES said that the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) was right not to prosecute the parents of Daniel James, who assisted his travel to the Dignitas suicide centre in Switzerland. Sarah Wootton has argued that a benefit of legalising assisted suicide for the terminally-ill would be that "requests for help to die could be expressed openly to doctors" by non-terminally-ill people like Daniel James. So it is clear that the VES believe it is right that non-terminally-ill people like Daniel James should be free openly to request assisted suicide and their family obtain it for them with impunity.
  • In the debate, Sarah Wootton said that her organisation was founded in 1935 - clearly referring to the Voluntary Euthanasia Society. If, however, her organisation - which has traded under the euphemism Dignity in Dying since 2005 - does not (as she claims) campaign for euthanasia, then what organisation does she represent? The one founded in 1935 or a new one founded in 2005? The VES/Dignity in Dying is a member of the World Federation of Right to Die Societies. Other members of the federation include organisations in other countries also called the "Voluntary Euthanasia Society", and others called the "Hemlock Society" (named after the poison most famously taken by Socrates, whose suicide was ordered as capital punishment). If the UK's VES/Dignity in Dying doesn't campaign for euthanasia or assisted suicide, why is it part of the federation? And why did it support the campaign of Debbie Purdy, who has made clear that she is campaigning for assisted suicide? And if the VES doesn't support the practice of suicide, why did Sarah Wootton write, after the Law Lord's judgment in favour of Debbie Purdy, that: "We will now all have the freedom to take the decision to end our lives"?
  • The judges in the Bland case ruled that a totally vulnerable, non-dying, innocent human being should be intentionally starved and dehydrated to death - in other words, non-voluntary euthanasia. One of the reasons that the VES campaigned for the Mental Capacity Act is because the Act reflects the Bland judgment.
Anthony adds:
"The more Sarah Wootton opens her mouth or puts pen to paper, the clearer the duplicity of the VES's campaign becomes. And considering that she is veteran of the pro-abortion lobby - which has lied, repeatedly, for 40 years about the indisputable humanity of the unborn child, about illegal abortion figures, and about abortion's damage to women's physical and psychological health - I am unsurprised."
So, in conclusion, I'd just like to say: "Congratulations, Anthony!" 

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