August 30, 2011

Assisted dying comments go against Christian beliefs

by Jan Harris

Government adviser Martin Green has told the Daily Telegraph that the UK law on assisted suicide should be reviewed because it is taking away choice and autonomy from patients.

Mr Green, a Dementia expert and the chief executive of the English Community Care Association, believes that there should be either a referendum, or a free vote in Parliament on the law, which currently makes assisted suicide illegal.

Although guidelines issued last year by the Director of Public Prosecutions lessen the chance of relatives being prosecuted for assisting in a suicide, health professionals face a custodial sentence of up to 14 years.

Mr Green suggests that NHS’s focus on giving choice and control to patients should extend to terminally ill patients who are physically unable to commit suicide but want their suffering, and therefore their lives, to end.

Mr Green’s suggestions are likely to raise fierce opposition from Christian group who reject the idea of human beings being autonomous as life is a gift from God and only God has the right to take it away.

There is also concern that a change in the law could put vulnerable people at the risk of being pressurised by relatives.

Author Terry Pratchett, who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease, is campaigning for assisted suicide to be made legal in the UK and has considered whether to eventually take this option himself.

He witnessed the assisted death of an English man at the Dignitas Clinic in Switzerland for the BBC documentary Choosing to Die.

A recent report by think-tank Demos found that coroners sometimes ‘turn a blind eye’ to assisted suicide in order to avoid causing difficulties for the grieving relatives and friends of the deceased.

The report found that at least ten per cent of suicides in England are committed by someone with a chronic or terminal illness.

It will be considered by the Commission on Assisted Dying which is looking at various issues around assisted suicide, such as whether there are any circumstances when it should be permitted, and whether any changes in the law should be made.

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