In a recent op-ed for The Times, British Lord Ian McColl, a surgeon and professor, expressed his belief that more efforts should be placed on palliative care, rather than assisted suicide. His is the latest voice in the country speaking out against assisted suicide and euthanasia as legalization is being considered in the House of Lords.
In response to the growing push for assisted suicide in the country, McColl argued the emphasis is being placed on the wrong thing, citing a statistic that claims an estimated 320 people every day in the United Kingdom don’t get the palliative care that they need. He wrote:
Glamorising euthanasia eclipses and disengages the possibility and reality of well-managed dying through high quality, specialist palliative care for people at the end of life. No law, however well-meaning, nor any amount of engineering an on-demand death, will solve deficits in care.
McColl’s observation is not unfounded — a recent report from Canada, where assisted suicide has been legal since 2016, found that resources that would otherwise go to increasing the quality of palliative care treatments are being rerouted instead for people to end their lives. In many instances, elderly, sick, and vulnerable people feel financial pressure to choose euthanasia, or they may feel obligated to choose assisted suicide so as not to be a burden to others. True palliative care recognizes the value and dignity of each life, but this is difficult to offer when state-sanctioned death is also an option.
McColl noted as much, continuing:
Assisted dying legislation does not give real choices in care, but suggests that those who are seriously ill should consider ending their lives. Canada has seen clinicians diverted away into assessing eligibility for lethal drugs, leaving some patients with even less care and fewer options in accessing what they need to live as they want.
McColl also pointed out that many people choose to end their life simply because they are lonely or depressed — a fact that has been supported a number of times. “What is needed for better deaths is to improve the involvement of health and social care professionals, not to remove their support altogether,” he said.
Finally, McColl pointed out the danger that legalized assisted suicide is to the vulnerable, pointing out that it opens up the door for unscrupulous and greedy people to trick people into agreeing to their own deaths.
“We have a fundamental responsibility to uphold a medical ethic which makes, promotes, affirms and protects the value of human life, whatever the challenges,” he wrote. “If society really wants to debate assisted suicide it must listen to the testimonies and fears of the many vulnerable people who are terrified by these proposals, and heed their judgment.”
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