Wednesday 27 January 2010

Legal protection against assisted suicide must remain says RADAR

I am delighted to see that RADAR, (chaired by Baroness Campbell of Surbiton [pictured]) has responded to the Gilderdale case on which I blogged yesterday. On Monday Kay Gilderdale was acquitted of attempted murder after admitting to assisting her 31 year old daughter’s suicide. Lynn was diagnosed with chronic fatigue disorder at 14 and said that she decided she wanted to die after being ill for many years. RADAR is a charity ran by disabled people and the UK’s largest disability campaigning network.

Their press release can be found on their website, but I reproduce here in full:
Amidst the clamour for the laws on assisted suicide to be changed following the case of Lynn Gilderdale, RADAR wishes to state its commitment to the principle that those who have a hand in the death of another person, regardless of that person’s disability or the stated motivation of the perpetrator, should have to answer for their actions before a court of law.

This provides a vital safeguard for thousands of the most vulnerable people in our country, and creating a group of people for whom this safeguard does not exist is both dangerous and discriminatory.

This danger is further illustrated by the case of Tom Inglis. His mother Frances, in spite of medical opinion and acting on her own convictions that he was suffering and that it was what he would have wanted, decided to kill her brain-damaged son.

What if it was not what he wanted, at that time? What right did Frances Inglis have to make that decision for him? Tom’s disability does not give another person, even his mother, the right to take his life based on their own judgements. Tom has the same rights to legal protection and justice as anyone else, and the prospect of setting out circumstances in which people whose lives are deemed by others to be intolerable can be stripped of those rights is chilling beyond measure.

Commenting in the wake of the Gilderdale judgement Caroline Ellis, RADAR’s Joint Deputy Chief Executive whose teenage son has Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), the same condition as Lynn Gilderdale, said:

“I condemn those who would try to use this case as ammunition for their fight to legalise assisted dying for people who are terminally ill or severely disabled or introduce a so-called ‘mercy killing’ defence. Singling out individuals for legalised killing based on their medical condition or prognosis would be discriminatory and repugnant – we must maintain current legal protections.”

“The real outrage is that people with CFS and their families are literally left to get on with it, with most not getting effective treatment or support. I am staggered at the lack of specialist resources available.”

“I have no way of knowing how severely CFS will affect my own child in the future but I know this: I never want him to feel like society is giving up on him, I want him and everyone else living with illness and impairment and their families to be supported to live [author’s emphasis], with access to the best possible care and support, free at the point of use. The idea that the law could be relaxed in future to encourage people to give up sends chills down my spine.”
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