A disabled member of the House of Lords in the United Kingdom (UK) has accused a fellow member of attempting to “hijack” the health and care bill in order to legalize assisted suicide.
During a debate earlier this month, Lord Michael Forsyth, a former secretary of state for Scotland, proposed an amendment to the health and care bill that would attempt to push forward the legalization of assisted suicide in the UK. Baroness Jane Campbell argued that the amendment would “force the government’s hand” on assisted suicide, as a bill meant to legalize doctor-assisted death was likely going to run out of time to be passed. That bill was introduced last year by Baroness Molly Meacher, who is chair of the pro-assisted suicide group Dignity in Dying, and has been heavily debated. Campell argued that Meacher’s bill was “the right vehicle to debate this issue and that is where it should be debated,” not in an amendment to the health and care bill.
According to the Disability News Service, Lord Forsyth’s amendment would force the health and social care secretary to publish a draft bill within a year that would “permit terminally ill, mentally competent adults legally to end their own lives with medical assistance.”
Baroness Campbell, who has a disability, is the founder of Not Dead Yet UK, an organization that campaigns against the legalization of assisted suicide. She called Lord Forsyth’s amendment “a deliberate manipulation of the parliamentary process.”
Other members of the House of Lords agree with her. Lord Daniel Moylan noted, “The idea that we can impose on the government something that they do not want to do, for which they have no electoral mandate, and which is not on their policy platform, seems an abuse.”
However, another disabled member threw support behind Lord Forsyth’s amendment. Baroness Sal Brinton said the amendment would “merely require ministers to bring forward draft legislation, not even to campaign in its favour.” She argued that the government “should maintain their neutrality on assisted dying, but they can guarantee sufficient time for the consideration of the legislation.”
Lord William McCrea said he “profoundly disagreed” with the amendment by Lord Forsyth. “Over this past two years this nation has been fighting to save life not to take it,” he said. “An assisted suicide law however well intended would alter society’s attitude towards the elderly, seriously ill and disabled, sending a message that assisted suicide is an option they ought to consider.”
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