In response to Lord Falconer’s Assisted Dying bill which receives its Second Reading in the House of Lords on Friday 18 July, Laurence England has written a superbly argued and moving post “Protecting the Vulnerable”:
Until his dying day, Lord Falconer will be campaigning for assisted suicide. Until my dying day, I will be doing what I can to campaign against it.
We all know very well that the Church’s position is firmly set against turning doctors sworn into their profession to be life-savers into state-sanctioned killers. We all understand that the morality of suicide at the hands of the State is a terrible idea that will inevitably lead to the untimely deaths of countless men, women and children, yet still a naive appeal to “compassion” cuts mustard with the UK population when this issue arises. What is hard for us to fathom is just how many people are at risk from being made to feel that suicide is the best option among a range of options that cannot bring ultimate ‘closure’ to pain and suffering in this life.
I have and continue to live a very privileged existence, but even within the context of this, there have been times in my life when I have found my life to be so mixed up and painful as to be ‘intolerable’. Were assisted suicide legal in this country, would I have contemplated seeing a doctor to be ‘put down’ in the middle of a massive depression?
There are mentally ill people I know who would give anything to stop the ‘voices’ from talking to them that they do not want to hear. I know a man who has just been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and who, on the same day as he was diagnosed, heard that his dad had suffered a heart attack and died. I know people for whom every waking day is a search for money for heroin and crack – an existence which they themselves find embarrassing, degrading, but who feel unable to break out of the cycle of dependency. I know people who live in accommodation so appalling and rotten that they stay out on the street all day and all night until they are so tired that they know that when they go ‘home’ they will simply fall asleep. The vast majority of these people have, at one time or another, told me of their thoughts of ‘ending it all’. Making that option easy will simply make that option more attractive. It sends out all the wrong signals, unless, of course, you want loads of people to die.
Yesterday, I was talking to a friend who takes another friend out for a breath of fresh air in her wheelchair. She lives alone and he often goes round to talk to her and listen to her. She has been sectioned many times. She is bipolar and talks to him regularly about suicidal thoughts. He often stays with her, talking to her for hours. Until now we have been telling people to ‘seek help’ if you are suicidal. Lord Falconers ‘help’ will eventually mean the ‘help’ that you need to request your own execution. The very ground upon which rest the lives of millions in this country will shift, an earthquake that could swallow men and women whole.