PREVIEW: What’s wrong with assisted suicide? Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson this Tuesday at 7.30pm

by Oxford Students for Life

The Falconer Bill, an attempt to legalize assisted suicide in this country, is currently going through Parliament. A second reading was held in the Lords back in July and the next step is the Committee Stage, beginning on the 7th November, when a detailed line-by-line examination of the Bill will be carried out and votes taken on any amendments.

When the Bill was read in the Lords for the second time it was hotly debated, with around 113 members speaking, each giving three or four minute speeches. A group of peers strongly opposing the Bill agreed to vote it through to the Committee Stage so that it would be properly reviewed and dissected there in detail.

Opposition to the Bill has been strong and wide-ranging, including from many of the major societies representing doctors in the UK. The medical profession sees its primary function as one of healing and so assisting suicide threatens the integrity of that profession. The Royal College of Physicians have said: “Assisting suicide has been clearly and expressly outside our duty of care since Hippocrates and must remain so for the integrity of these professions and the public good.” Some have voiced fears about the criteria required to be eligible for assisted suicide expressed in the Bill. For example the patient must have a terminal prognosis of six months or less. A terminal prognosis of that sort however is extremely unreliable. The Royal College of GPs have said that when estimates are made for people living a matter of months the “scope for error can extend into years”.

The criteria provided also fails to state guidelines on how to assess whether or not this criteria has been met. It is this failure that has led many to believe that the Bill poses a serious threat to the vulnerable members of society. Among them is Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, who as a result recently described the Bill as “not really fit for purpose”.

Baroness Tanni is a cross-bench peer and an 11-times Paralympic Gold medalist. She is a prominent campaigner for disabled rights and has been one of the most vocal critics of the Falconer Bill. Her primary concern is that if the Bill is introduced, disabled people “will be pressurized into ending their life”, which will be a decision “they’ve been pushed into rather that one they’ve taken themselves”. She recently described it as a “chilling prospect for disabled people”. From her work with disabled people, campaigning for them and as a wheelchair user herself having been born with spina bifida, Tanni is acutely aware of why this Bill poses such a serious threat to the welfare and security of the most vulnerable members of our society. Her talk promises to be very interesting, so do come along to find out more this Tuesday evening at 7.30 at the Blue Boar lecture theatre, Christ Church.

The Facebook event can be found here.