Wednesday 31 July 2013

Nicklinson-Lamb euthanasia ruling welcomed but 'Martin' assisted suicide ruling carries danger for disabled people

SPUC Pro-Life has welcomed the fact that the murder law has been upheld in today’s judgment in the Nicklinson and Lamb euthanasia cases.

However, the majority judgment in the case of the anonymous third man, 'Martin', is deeply disturbing. Commenting on this, Paul Tully, SPUC Pro-Life's general secretary, told the media earlier today:
"If implemented it could encourage the pro-euthanasia lobby to recruit paid medical and legal professionals to organise the suicides of suffering and disabled people. The majority judges have done a disservice to disabled people by suggesting that the DPP’s prosecution guidance for assisted suicide should be amended based on Martin’s situation. 

This is the kind of outcome that pro-euthanasia campaigners were seeking, and it is clear that if it is put into effect, many more disabled people could be channelled towards assisted suicide.

The present prosecution guidance has been criticised by disability rights groups for being too lax. Low prosecution statistics suggest that it is in need of tightening, rather than further relaxation. However, despite the DPP’s reluctance to bring prosecutions for criminally assisted suicide in recent years, the number of cases, mainly abroad, has remained low. There is little to show for the huge media support and vast legal expenses incurred by the pro-euthanasia lobby.

The DPP’s published guidance omitted a highly contentious point, which had been included in a draft version, saying that disability in the victim would be a factor tending against prosecution of someone trying to help that person commit suicide. Many disability rights groups had objected to being singled out in this way.

The guidance also holds that if any individual is involved in assisting suicide in a professional or paid capacity it should weigh in favour of prosecution. 

In the 'Martin' judgment, the court appears to challenge these elements of the policy, calling Martin a 'paradigm' instance of why this should be allowed. 

Care and support for severely disabled or paralysed people who express a wish to die should be shown in the same way as for those without disability – by practical expressions of solidarity with them, such as working to improve pain control. The truly compassionate response to people with severe disability means helping them overcome any sense of worthlessness, not confirming such feelings by unethically (and illegally) helping to kill them."
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