Cross-posted from HOPE
Legalising assisted suicide is a slippery slope toward widespread killing of the sick, MPs and peers were told yesterday.
A former euthanasia supporter warned of a surge in deaths if Parliament allowed doctors to give deadly drugs to their patients.
‘Don’t do it Britain,’ said Theo Boer, a veteran European watchdog in assisted suicide cases. ‘Once the genie is out of the bottle, it is not likely ever to go back in again.’
His native Netherlands, where euthanasia has been legal since 2002, has seen deaths double in just six years and this year’s total may reach a record 6,000.
Professor Boer’s intervention comes as peers prepare to debate the Assisted Dying Bill, promoted by Lord Falconer, a Labour former Lord Chancellor.
The bill, which has its second reading next week, would allow doctors to prescribe poison to terminally ill and mentally alert people who wish to kill themselves.
Professor Boer, who is an academic in the field of ethics, had argued seven years ago that a ‘good euthanasia law’ would produce relatively low numbers of deaths.
Peers are preparing to debate the Assisted Dying Bill which was promoted by Lord Falconer, a Labour former Lord Chancellor
But, speaking in a personal capacity yesterday, he said he now believed that the very existence of a euthanasia law turns assisted suicide from a last resort into a normal procedure.
A ‘slippery slope’ for assisted dying in Britain would mean that euthanasia would follow the same path as abortion, which was legalised in 1967.
There are now nearly 200,000 terminations a year. Anti-euthanasia campaigners and disability activists called on politicians to listen to the professor’s warning.
The Paralympian, Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, said: ‘What Dr Boer says comes as no surprise.
‘An assisted dying law is playing with fire, especially when there are no safeguards in place. Lord Falconer’s bill just isn’t fit for purpose.’
Baroness Jane Campbell, who is a disability rights campaigner, said: ‘As happens in Holland, Lord Falconer’s bill could end up encompassing significant numbers of seriously ill people.’
Euthanasia is now becoming so prevalent in the Netherlands, Professor Boer said, that it is ‘on the way to becoming a default mode of dying for cancer patients’.
He said assisted deaths have increased by about 15 per cent every year since 2008 and the number could hit a record 6,000 this year.
He said he was concerned at the extension of killing to new classes of people, including the demented and the depressed, and the establishment of mobile death units of ‘travelling euthanasing doctors’.
Activists, Professor Boer said, continue to campaign for doctor-administered death to be made ever easier and ‘will not rest’ until a lethal pill is made available to anyone over 70 who wishes to die.
‘Some slopes truly are slippery,’ he added.
The Utrecht University academic has been a member since 2005 of a review committee charged with monitoring euthanasia deaths. Its role includes a duty to ‘tell doctors how their actions in particular cases are likely to stand up to legal, medical and ethical scrutiny’.
Professor Boer admitted he was ‘wrong – terribly wrong, in fact’ to have believed regulated euthanasia would work.
‘I used to be a supporter of the Dutch law. But now, with 12 years of experience, I take a very different view.
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