Old wounds re-opened over ‘right to die’

A newly-promoted health minister has claimed that terminally ill people, who seek help to die, should be allowed to get that help in the UK.

Tory Anna Soubry said UK citizens should not have to go abroad if they really want to end their lives.

The Departments of Health and Justice were quick to pronounce the new minister’s opinions as her own, not indicative of government thinking, and to state that the government has no plans to change the law.

This is a valid issue for discussion; I certainly don’t think it’s right that health professionals should work to keep a person alive when their own body would have given up if left on its own, and they actually want to be released. To my way of thinking, that’s a little too close to torture. I’m sure some readers of this blog will be aware of other circumstances that could justify switching off healthcare.

But I have a doubt about this. Maybe my thoughts would be different if I did not know that, between January and August last year, there were 5,300 deaths in the support group of ESA claimants. This is the group that receives full support for as long as necessary – the rest of members’ natural lives.

Terminal conditions are common in this group, so I have to ask: Is this just another grubby bid to save more benefit money by killing off the claimants a little earlier than they would normally have died?

10 thoughts on “Old wounds re-opened over ‘right to die’

  1. Smiling Carcass

    I appreciate your thinking, and I am undecided on this issue- my worry is that such legislation would be abused to reduce the wlfare and NHS bill.

    “I certainly don’t think it’s right that health professionals should work to keep a person alive when their own body would have given up if left on its own,”

    This is done daily; for example, many cancer sufferers survive through treatment where the “their own body would have given up [to the cancer] if left on its own.”

    1. Mike Sivier

      This is why the matter needs discussion – it’s a hugely difficult grey area. When I wrote the passage you quoted, I was thinking about people who want to be released, for whom there is no possibility of restoration to health. But I don’t have experience or expertise to comment with authority; I was seeking input from those who do, and I am grateful for yours.

      1. Smiling Carcass

        Mike, I knew what you meant, but was playing Devil’s Advocate to show how your meaning behind a statement can be misrepresented by somebody with a different agenda, and so this is a very delicate subject and any legislation would have to be very carefully thought out.

    1. Smiling Carcass

      Thanks, Mike; you cannot say ‘yes’ to everybody, any more than it is right to say ‘no’ to everybody. There will be cases that are reasonably straight forward, from both perspectives but it is the grey area in between that needs solid, well though out legislation.

  2. Mike Sivier

    Perhaps some kind of medical tribunal or council? A decision made by an impartial body of doctors would lessen the chances of intervention for political convenience – or am I being naive?

    1. Smiling Carcass

      I am not sure what the answer is; maybe lay people on the tribunal, policemen and lawyers- I know there’s a cost element, but this has to be as fool-proof as it can be made. There is no such thing as 100% safe, but we can get as close as possible to it. I believe it is coming, These comments are setting the stage for it, in my opinion.

  3. Mike Sivier

    From Charlene Sibley on Twitter: If an animal is suffering they’re put to sleep because it’s the HUMANE thing to do, but HUMANS are ok to suffer????

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