New campaign launched to challenge assisted suicide proposals

(Photo: Unsplash/Marcin Nowak)

A new campaign has been launched to fight proposals to legalise assisted suicide for the terminally ill. 

Fresh attempts are afoot in both Westminster and Holyrood to change the law, but the Better Way campaign says efforts should be concentrated on improving palliative care, not legalising assisted suicide. 

"Better Way will champion a positive, alternative vision for the UK. A vision involving better access to palliative care, a redoubling of efforts to prevent suicides, action on elder abuse and loneliness, and greater disability equality," the group said.

"These noble goals are only attainable so long as the door to assisted suicide remains firmly shut."

The launch of the campaign on Saturday comes days after the British Medical Association dropped its longstanding opposition to assisted suicide, adopting a neutral position instead.

The Bill being considered by Westminster proposes permitting assisted suicide for terminally ill people in the last six months of life, subject to the consent of two doctors and a High Court judge.

Dr Miro Griffiths, Leverhulme Research Fellow in Disability Studies at the University of Leeds and spokesman for the Better Way campaign, called the proposals "sinister". 

"We will fight tooth and nail to see sinister assisted suicide proposals kept off the statute book and put a positive, alternative case to politicians," he said.

"We shouldn't have to be doing this. MPs have already carefully considered the evidence more than once and overwhelmingly rejected a change in the law. MSPs have also roundly rejected it twice before. The evidence hasn't changed." 

Westminster last rejected proposals to legalise assisted suicide in 2015. 

Dr Griffiths' comments echo those of former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Williams of Oystermouth, who this week said the arguments against legalisation "remain essentially the same" as six years ago.

Writing in the British Medical Journal, Lord Williams said it was "hard to see that any new facts have emerged in recent years that would justify the changes envisaged".

Dr Griffiths raised additional concerns for people with disability if assisted suicide is legalised.

"Disabled people's human rights violations are real," he said.

"Disabled people are denied opportunities to participate in their communities. Disabled people do not receive sufficient support to have a valued, respected role in society.

"If the Assisted Dying Bill was not to pass these issues would still exist. If the Assisted Dying Bill was to pass, these issues would likely be compounded, as would inequalities faced by other groups.

"I urge politicians at Westminster and Holyrood not to open the door to assisted suicide. Once this Pandora's box is opened, it leads to serious and widespread harms affecting the most marginalised in society.

"Let's work together to establish a better way for the UK."