Analysis: Assisted dying debate

Nurse and patient holding hands

There is a profound gulf between those who see assisted dying as a fundamental human right for the terminally ill and those who fear that right could easily turn into a duty for the disabled and vulnerable.

It was the case of the late Tony Nicklinson, who had locked-in syndrome and wanted doctors to help him die, which proved a powerful talisman for the pro-lobby.

The Supreme Court rejected that argument last month, but invited Parliament to reconsider the law on assisted suicide as it could be incompatible with human rights legislation.

It is ironic that Mr Nicklinson would not have been eligible for help under the Assisted Dying Bill as he was not terminally ill and lacked the ability to self-administer a lethal dose.

Profound change

The assisted dying bill would allow adults of sound mind, with six months to live, the right to end their life at a time of their choosing.

It would be a profound step for society, modelled on the law in Oregon in the US.

If experience there is a guide it may lead to around 1,000 people a year in England and Wales choosing an assisted death.

Supporters believe opinion has shifted decisively in their favour since the Lords last rejected the measure eight years ago.

However, there seems no realistic possibility that the Bill will become law without government support and Parliamentary time.

But this issue - arguably one of the most significant facing society - will keep re-emerging and those of both sides of the divide will have their arguments ready.

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Assisted dying controversy


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  • rate this

    Comment number 63.

    #62 ciconia

    "Some of us have relevant experiences on which to base our views."

    --Then give them.

    Disabled have the same ´problem´ as the non-disabled.

    --a pain-free and respectful death.

    If you believe that Britain cannot provide the certainty you require --

    Then say so.

    --But do not prevent those who wish that --to achieve their wish.

  • rate this

    Comment number 62.

    30 truth logic etc,
    Disagreeing with your opinion does not make people 'fantasy god voodoo believers....morally weak or paranoid'.
    This is a serious and difficult issue needing an adult attitude.
    Some of us have relevant experiences on which to base our views.

  • rate this

    Comment number 61.

    #60 bbcid001

    "NO to assisted dying.
    It would encourage much Skulduggery to obtain riches from the deceased."

    -- you have a method ´to take it with you ´?

    It is only a matter of (short) time before the ´Skulduggery´ occurs anyway.

    (personal observations)

  • rate this

    Comment number 60.

    NO to assisted dying.
    It would encourage much Skulduggery to obtain riches from the deceased.
    If people want to die that much, then they will end their suffering by their own actions. Amen.

  • rate this

    Comment number 59.

    I presently have no fear of a peaceful and pain free death.

    What more worries me is if Hinduism is correct -- and it immediately begins all over again -- re-birth would be a drag.

    #58 Vin

    " I don't think friends and relatives count because they might have completely the opposite view to mine: "

    --considering my parents gave me a ´death sentence´

    --a conflict of interest was apparent.

  • rate this

    Comment number 58.

    @53 I don't think friends and relatives count because they might have completely the opposite view to mine: the greiving is irrelevant because that is the price of investment in any relationship which can never last forever anyway. The Hippocratic oath is do no harm, but is it harmless to stress the ill people of these cases with avoidable uncertainty about their ending? It must be terrifying!

  • rate this

    Comment number 57.

    #56 Doc

    "As a doctor I can confirm there are people who unfortunately die in pain and distress "

    --Is it necessary --if a patient accept the consequences beforehand and gives it it writing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 56.

    As a doctor I can confirm there are people who unfortunately die in pain and distress
    In my opinion a duty of care to my patients should allow me to offer a a way to ease their passing, which minimizes suffering.
    Of course there dangers , but there are risks and benefits to any therapy.
    . Most doctors I know would like such an option to be offered to them at the appropriate time.

  • rate this

    Comment number 55.

    Is it really wrong to deny people with a terminal illness to die peacefully,free from pain?.
    But still OK to go to war ?

  • Comment number 54.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 53.

    As an atheist I have no religious objection but I do wonder about the moral/mental impact on the person(s) who assist a death however merciful the intention. It's the relatives and friends left behind who do the grieving and there could be recrimination mixed with the regret and does it squares with the Hippocratic oath if you ask a doctor.

    Issue a black pill whilst ability remains to take it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 52.

    David Cameron's stance on this issue is disgraceful.

  • rate this

    Comment number 51.

    A grown up country with grown up politicians would have tackled this problem years ago.
    Is it humane to prolong the pain and suffering of people in terminal conditions that are fully aware of their condition and have made a reasoned choice to wish to end it.
    We do not allow our pets to suffer and consider this the humane course yet an intelligent human is denied the same relief.
    Compassion !!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 50.

    personally i'm all for it. Although I just can't see who could do it, would have to be agreed with their doctor and I don't believe they should have to make the choice and allowing 'doctor hoping' just sounds like a bad idea.

  • rate this

    Comment number 49.

    Those who crave death have already tried it,...from the ears up.

  • rate this

    Comment number 48.

    Approx 6000 people kill themselves each year in UK, often in excrutiating painful ways.

    YOUR lifestyle also indirectly KILLS THOUSANDS of people in UK each year via polution, & KILLS more worldwide, wherever they produce the poluting goods you buy, so STOP being selfish self centred HYPOCRITES about seriously ill people

    If youre that paranoid go get some pills from Dr, probs you do already

  • rate this

    Comment number 47.

    #41 Truth

    I agree something is badly wrong. Other countries manage much better.

    There appears to be a general decline in all services --and not only health.

    I still believe the only way out --is more EU --and much less ´sovereignty´ -- Full ´sovereignty´ in many areas is a disaster --the Right to ignore.

    Peanuts said-

    ´There is no problem so big that you can´t run away from it´

  • rate this

    Comment number 46.

    Having watched my mother die a dreadful death that you would not wish on anybody, I think this has to happen but of course safeguards have to be in place. Life at all costs? No, a life worth living.

  • rate this

    Comment number 45.

    Supporters of this lunacy like to think they are compassionate and liberal rather than naive and half soaked..

    Abortion law was reformed to "save" the lives of 200 women who died during backstreet jobs. The same moral blackmail was used in 1967 and the same fatuous arguments deployed.

    There are now 200,000 abortions. So will it be here. State sanctioned murder from the cradle to the grave.

  • rate this

    Comment number 44.

    @38 Citizen X

    I don't know how anyone can have the brass nerve to sit in judgement on Tony Nicklinson.


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