Thursday, 6 August 2015

Assisted suicide bill

A very thoughtful and considered letter form my local MP
Dear Reverend Mellish,
 
Thank you for contacting me about Rob Marris’ Assisted Dying Bill. I appreciate that this difficult issue raises strong and genuinely held opinions on both sides of the debate, and I wanted to read through the Bill in its entirety, which has only recently been published, before responding to you.
 
I approach this dilemma with an open mind. Anyone who has had a family member or loved one with a terminal illness knows how distressing and difficult it can be, both for the patient, their family and friends. Highly emotive cases increasingly appear on the news, and our palliative care must be as sensitive and flexible as possible to these peoples’ needs. This should not, however, distract us from the essential question this Bill poses: should doctors be licensed to supply lethal drugs to terminally ill patients who ask for them and meet certain conditions?
 
Having read through the Bill, I feel, regardless of whether in principal you support or oppose assisted suicide, there are insufficient safeguards in place to protect some of the most vulnerable people in our society. At this point it is also worth stressing that this is the conclusion all the Royal Colleges, the British Medical Association (BMA) and the major disability charities have come to.
 
Although the Bill does include provisions to ensure those wishing to end their life have met certain qualifying criteria, there is no guarantee that these will translate into concrete safeguards. This is particularly the case in deciding whether a request for assisted suicide derives from a settled wish or whether it is being influenced by pressure of one sort or another. That pressure may come from a family member, or, unfortunately, an internal belief from the patient themself that they are a burden on their loved ones.
 
On this point, careful consideration must be given to the doctors whose responsibility it will be to ultimately make the final decision. A decision of this magnitude must, of course, take into account factors that lie outside the field of medicine, something research indicates only one out of seven GPs would be prepared to do. Drawing on my experience as a lawyer, it is also difficult to see how this fundamental problem can be mitigated by the arbitration of a High Court judge, whose duty, as envisaged by the Bill, would be to little more than rubber stamp the doctors’ decision.
 
Where similar legislation has been enacted overseas, there has often been a demand for changes to the laws governing other forms of euthanasia. In Belgium, for example, a law was passed in 2014 to enable children to be euthanized, whilst in Oregon – on whose assisted suicide law this Bill is based – the extension of euthanasia is currently being considered. I am concerned that, if assisted suicide were to be legalised in Britain, in may prove difficult to avoid a similar trend.
 
I believe more safeguards need to be put in place, and a clear plan of how these would actually work in practice, before assisted suicide could ever be legalised here. For that reason I will not be supporting Rob Marris’ Private Members’ Bill when it comes before Parliament in September.
 
Thank you again for taking the trouble to contact me.

Sunday, 19 July 2015

That "Nazi Salute"

Hitler and the National Socialist Party were abhorrent and people who supported them are rightly vilified.Whether the so called salute is really a salute, a young girl having a joke or wave we will never know.
It is interesting that people who expressed sympathy for Communism and "nice" Uncle Joe" Stalin are not vilified in the same way as those who express any kind of sympathy for the Nazis are. Yet when it comes to mass murder and wholesale massacre of people Stalin makes Hitler look like a vicar at church tea-party.

Monday, 22 June 2015

THE "Right To Die" Bill



Taken form Mark Lambert's Blog on the subject.


Assisted Suicide, the right to die, is back in the news again. Labour MP Rob Marris plans to introduce a Bill that that would legalise assisted suicide, in a move which essentially copies the law proposed by Lord Falconer in the House of Lords in the last Parliament. 

There are many problems with the right to die. Of course, everyone will die anyway, so "right to die" is a total misnomer. In reality what we are talking about is the right to be killed. It is a sensitive subject, because many people feel that it is no one else's business; you should be allowed to end your life whenever you chose. However there are real effects which are extremely negative for society and can be clearly demonstrated. In countries and states that have adopted assisted suicide, palliative care (the medical specialism designed to relieve pain) is fundamentally undermined, vulnerable people can be pressured into assisted death, and that human life is devalued by medical culture and society more largely.
This was recently brought home to me very clearly when I had a conversation with a sick lady who is following the arguments very closely. She is genuinely terrified that an acceptance of this bill will result in her being considered somehow obsolete by society. The cultural result will be that society looks at people with terminal illness or serious health concerns and suggests it would probably be best if they did the honourable thing and removed the burden they have become from our having to deal with them.
From a Catholic perspective of course, this is wholly abhorrent and must be opposed!
Essential Catholic reading on the issue includes (but is not limited to) the great encyclical on the Gospel of Life from Pope St. John Paul II Evangelium Vitae & the CDF Declaration on Euthanasia. But in today's secular society, few people look to the Church for wisdom on such issues. Instead, they spurn the wealth of knowledge the Church has to offer and even caricature those with faith as being disingenuous on issues such as this, motivated by faith rather than reason and common sense.

The reality is that you do not need to have faith in order to see how bad this is for our society. Peter Williams at Right to Life has written the following article on assisted suicide calling all people who support the right to life to oppose this bill. He uses logic and reason in a way which clearly illustrates the intellectual shortcomings in the agenda of those who would seek to legalise murder of the most vulnerable in our society. Please do read this and follow his suggestions- get involved, write to your MP and make a difference today! 

Falconer Redux: Oppose the Marris Bill!

by Peter D. Williams
The threat of assisted suicide has cropped up again, this time in the House of Commons. Right-to-lifers now have an opportunity to deal a serious defeat for the assisted death lobby, if the House of Commons decisively rejects their goals.
Every year, the House of Commons holds a ballot for MPs who wish to introduce a Private Members Bill (a change to the law introduced not by the Government, but by an individual MP). This year, the Labour MP Rob Marris won the top of the ballot, and plans to introduce a Bill that that would legalise assisted suicide, essentially as a copy of the law proposed by Lord Falconer in the House of Lords in the last Parliament.
It is worth remembering what the problems were with the Falconer Bill, as the same criticisms will be able to be applied to the Marris Bill also. Lord Falconer’s proposals were based on the system of assisted suicide used in the U.S. state of Oregon.
The Oregon State Public Health Division brings out an Annual Report each year, and in 1998, the year in which the ‘Death with Dignity’ act, legalising assisted suicide in Oregon took effect, it reported that 13% of patients applying for medication to commit suicide did so because they were frightened of being a burden on their families(1). This percentage has substantially increased since, even whilst fluctuating, to the extent that in 2014 almost four times more patients (40%) were opting for assisted suicide for this reason(2). In 2012, only three years ago, this figure had exceeded it, at 57.1%(3).
Meanwhile, in Washington State, which also uses a similar system, the most recent figure for this reason cited by those opting for assisted suicide is 61% (4). All of this illustrates the degree to which a so-called ‘right to die’ (more accurately a right to be killed) can in fact become a duty to die.
Do we really want to live in a society where this is the attitude engendered in the elderly and the terminally ill, or do we want a compassionate society in which people are valued for who and what they are – human beings with inherent dignity, who are always valued – and which consequently invests in good quality palliative care?
The so-called ‘safeguards’ in the Falconer Bill were far too lax to protect from abuse. The requirement it mandated that two Doctors must ascertain that those presenting for assisted suicide truly wished to do so(5), is the same system used in the Abortion Act 1967, which we know is largely abused. This also relies on both Doctors knowing the patient well enough, and their families, to be able to evaluate their intentions, mental capacity, and freedom from duress such as subtle pressure from relations. Given the relationship between most patients and even their GPs, this is incredibly unrealistic.
To add extra rigour, a ‘safeguard’ added to the Bill was that a person presenting for assisted suicide would have to satisfy a judge of the Family Division of the High Court that they had made a “voluntary, clear, settled and informed wish to end their life”. This was proposed by Lord Pannick on the grounds that judges of the Family Division already hear cases of medical life or death, do so speedily, and would supposedly add another level of stringency in making sure sufficient ‘safeguards’ were followed.
The version of such a safeguard that was proposed, however, would only have involved a court verifying that the procedures mandated by the Bill itself had been met. Yet as we have seen, it is precisely the procedures themselves that leave vulnerable people open to being pressured into ending their lives due to unscrupulous, or even just exhausted or cost-laden relatives. Involving the courts would thus bring no real added protection to those who could be pressured into suicide.
The Falconer Bill also required the person committing suicide to have mental capacity (6), and to commit the action – pushing a plunger, or pressing a button – that kills them (7). This would exclude the high profile hard cases of this issue (e.g. people suffering from Alzheimer’s and thus lacking mental capacity when they would want to commit suicide, like Sir Terry Pratchett, or paraplegics who cannot commit the physical actions necessary to end their own lives, like Tony Nicklinson), but would endanger the lives of many more vulnerable people.
It is certainly worth remembering that the introduction of assisted suicide is opposed by almost every major medical body, as well as leading palliative care organisations, and campaigning groups for the elderly and disabled: the Royal College of Physicians, the Royal College of General Practitioners, the British Medical Association, the World Medical Association, the British Geriatric SocietyScope, the UK Disabled People’s Council, and Not Dead Yet UK.
The debate over the Marris Bill should show that no amount of attempted safeguards are sufficient to avoid the abuse of assisted suicide. The right-to-life movement therefore has a great opportunity to make the pitfalls of such a proposal clear, and also to advocate truly humane reforms that will make assisted living, not assisted death, the concentration of Government.
We can only do this, however, with the help of ordinary right-to-lifers. The Marris Bill will be debated at Second Reading on September 11th, which is a Friday (a day when MPs tend to be back in their constituencies). We need as many people as possible therefore, to contact their Members of Parliament, outlining the problems with assisted suicide and specifically the Falconer/Marris proposals, and asking them to do two things:
  1. Be in the Palace of Westminster on September 11th, and attend the Commons Marris Bill debate.
  2. Oppose and vote against the Marris Bill.
If enough Members of the Commons were to do those two things, it would lead to a great victory. Please therefore write to your MP today, and urge them to defend the right to life of vulnerable people.

Monday, 15 June 2015

A Few Days in Devon

We recently spent a few days in our holiday lodge in Devon. On the first day we met up with Lawrie, Emma and Henry who were departing to go home. So we managed to see our grandson, alebit for a few hours.
Henry  
We went to Castle Drogo which is currently being refurbished or rather repaired as it leaks rather a lot!
The "Tent" over the Castle
We also went to Knighthayes Court which is rather special with lovely grounds and some fine artifacts.

A lovely tree  

I rather like this pot

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Care for the dying

Most of the daily papers are carrying articles on the inadequacies of care of the dying within the NHS - click here.
We need a proper debate on what medical research is necessary/feasible and desirable. Every different group; prostate cancer, breast cancer, diabetes, liver disease, heart. lung etc etc is busy researching away on methods and drugs that will eradicate the disease and/or mitigate the effects of the problem. These all cost ever increasing amounts of money. Are we prepared to write an open ended cheque? Currently we seem to want to prolong life so that people can get dementia and then have euthanasia to polish us off. Perhaps we should focus ore on quality of life rather than prolonging life. We need a reasoned debate on these issues but as politicians will be involved this looks very unlikely.