A law change that has been needed for a while, finally appears to have some traction. The deputy chair of British Medical Association says law on ‘dying with dignity’ must, and will, change soon.
The deputy chair of the British Medical Association has stated that a law which will allow the terminally ill to end their lives on their terms is inevitable. What is more impressive however is that this law may well be passed in the next few years, this is an enormous leap considering this process has been stuck in neutral for years.
Dr Kailash Chand has thrown his considerable political weight behind Lord Falconer’s bill, which would offer assisted dying to terminally ill patients who are deemed mentally capable and are likely to have less than six months to live.
Last week the House of Lords voted unanimously to accept the amendment to the assisted dying bill, tabled by Lord Pannick and supported by Falconer. The bill however does add a precaution in these situations meaning that all of these assisted death cases are subject to judicial oversight.
The amendment has been lauded by campaigners as a major step in changing the laws to be more in line with the public opinion, as well as supporting the patients desires. Dr Chand said that it was clear which way the pendulum was swinging on this issue and that the government should listen to the public voice.
“No change is not an option,” he told the Observer. “The present law definitely needs changing. It discriminates and is very bad law. We currently have a two-tier system – one for the people who have the resources and money to go to the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland and another for the majority of people who don’t have the resources or money.”
The peers who were opposed to the amendment have stated that it was because they feared that some of the patients would be pressured into ending their lives prematurely. Several religious groups are also opposed on grounds that suicide is a sin, even if it is assisted, and that we do not have the right to decide when to die; the British Medical Association, who represent British doctors, were also opposed as a group.
Chand implied that the organisation was not in line with the views of the public. “Look at the surveys. Between 60% and 70% of the public are in favour of a change in the law. Three-quarters of nurses are in favour. Only the doctors’ community is not substantially in favour. But if you ask a doctor a personal question whether, if they were in that sort of situation, would they want it, their answer would be yes.”
Chand also argued on behalf of changing the language used “I don’t call it euthanasia or assisted dying; I call it dying with dignity. If we are allowed to live with dignity, why should we not be allowed to die with it?”
The amendment would require a judge in the family division of the high court to confirm that a terminally ill patient with less than six months to live had reached “a voluntary, clear, settled and informed” decision to control the time and manner of their death. Essentially as mentioned above it simply means that a patient is terminal and fully capable of making their own decision in these cases.
This move by the House of Lords has opened a lot of doors to patients who have been suffering with their illnesses. If the decision is to remain in pain or to suffer with some other ailments which we as able bodied cannot yet imagine why shouldn’t they have the right to choose to end it? As Dr Chand says why should they not be allowed to die with dignity?