The people leading the “Care not Killing” campaign are wicked. They aim to defeat the assisted suicide Bill I plan to introduce to the Scottish Parliament this autumn. Care not Killing ignores my Bill’s purpose and links it with the programme of state-sponsored murder of disabled Germans.
My Bill will give defined categories of people the legal right to seek help to end their own life, and only their own lives, when they have become intolerable. In Hitler’s Germany, lives were ended by the officials and doctors who experimented in “cleansing” Hitler’s Reich.
I would never deny that such practices took place and that it is our duty to never forget as the post-war generation that threw off the sins of our fathers. We devised and nurture the law constructed by us to accord every citizen the same human rights. But the uncharitable people managing the Care not Killing campaign link the horrific “thinning out of the population” undertaken by poisoned, twisted minds in Hitler’s Reich, with a campaign that recognises above all else, the right of people with irreversible conditions that lead to death to decide when their life should end. I can scarcely bear to think of what the members of C not K said amongst themselves on seeing the TV footage of Tony Nicklinson as he pursued his campaign to end his life peacefully and with dignity. Tony’s “locked–in” syndrome resulted in this formerly vibrant, active participant becoming progressively separated from the world and the people most dear to him. He was deeply unhappy and described his impotent position as “a living nightmare”. As everyone now knows, Tony did not win the permission to proceed with an assisted death from the English High Court judges, and after refusing food and water, died from pneumonia a few days after the court decision.
Dr Andrew Fergusson, a leading member of C not K, gives a hint of the zealots’ heartless philosophy when he complains of “biased media reporting focused on tragedy”. Would he prefer the media to ignore the living hell that forces a small number of people, able-bodied and disabled alike, to endure the wretchedness to the bitter end that we saw in Tony? Should the media spotlight only fall on healthy, happy people, disabled and able-bodied, keeping themselves as active and involved as possible, who do not wish to end their lives because they experience nothing of the same torment as Tony, whose mind and memory were sharp and intact but whose ability to take part in his family, never mind all his other interests, was reduced to blinking one eye to communicate.
It’s good and uplifting to see the support and admiration accorded the Paralympians. Media and public attention has been caught by their commitment, strength and character, so it’s hardly surprising that media attention should be drawn to the small number of people who, for no fault of their own, or from choice, just cannot achieve the basic essentials for living their own lives.
Does C not K not even have enough pity for the plight of a person left without dignity and personal space, entirely dependent on others for the most intimate of personal care. The TV shots of Tony weren’t “biased”, they portrayed his life as it was... intolerable. Can you imagine the despair he must have felt, knowing that he might go on in that state for years?
What’s the connection between that highly personalised, utterly individual choice made by one man, and the policy decisions taken by officials in the Nazi government to put to death “imperfect German children and six million Jewish, Gypsy and gay people”? Absolutely none.
The entire assumption of my Bill will be that the wishes of the patient, and only the patient, are to determine how and when his or her life will end. Dr Fergusson ignores this without explaining what agony he believes a person must endure. If this is rooted in his religious beliefs, he is to be admired for their strength, but his beliefs are no more to be valued than those of Tony Nicklinson. And if a proposition is made to change the law on assisted dying, as in anything else, majority opinion will determine the outcome.
But if C not K is opposed to the construction, feasibility or robustness of my proposed legislation, let their members attack the Bill, after they’ve seen it. It may appear, however, that whatever safeguards against abuse are incorporated, C not K – an overwhelmingly Christian body– simply cannot practise the love and tolerance its beliefs proclaim, and instead resorts to linking the beliefs of the Nicklinsons, myself and many, many, good people to the beliefs of one of the most vile regimes the world has known.