A new study in the United Kingdom has revealed a 2.5 percent higher suicide risk among people battling terminal cancer, as well as heart and lung disease. Sadly, the study is being used as evidence to support assisted dying.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) looked at individuals who were diagnosed or received treatment for chronic ischemic heart conditions, low-survival cancer, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) between January 2017 and March 2020. The study found there were around 22 suicides per 100,000 terminal cancer patients, compared to nine per 100,000 in a control group of healthy people. The rate was similar among those with COPD. Additionally, there were around 16 suicides per 100,000 patients with coronary heart disease, nearly two times higher than the rate for the matched controls.
Proponents of assisted suicide are using the study as evidence for more relaxed laws on assisted suicide in the country. Currently, assisted suicide is illegal in the United Kingdom (UK).
In a statement to the peer-reviewed British Medical Journal (BMJ), Jacky Davis, a consultant radiologist and chair of Healthcare Professionals for Assisted Dying, said the findings “illustrate the dangers of this country’s ban on assisted dying and add to growing evidence that the laws that govern how we die in this country lack compassion and are in urgent need of reform.”
But many fail to see how killing the sick is a compassionate act.
Last year, Bishop Patrick McKinney of Nottingham in central England spoke against legislation attempting to legalize assisted suicide in the country. He noted, “Introducing a system which would license assisted suicide for the terminally ill would send the message — however unintentionally — that some lives are no longer worth fighting for.”
There are alternatives to assisted suicide, and chief among them is compassionate palliative care that respects human dignity and offers real care, instead of death. That is the position of Care Not Killing, a UK alliance opposed to assisted suicide. The organization’s chief executive, Dr. Gordon Macdonald, said the new data revealed in the study does not indicate the need for a change in the law on assisted dying, and instead suggests the need for improved end-of-life care.
“No, these ONS figures suggest that much more work needs to be done to support dying and vulnerable people by providing them with universal access to treatment for both their physical and psychological needs,” said Macdonald. “This means extending high quality palliative care to all those who need it, not reaching for a cheap short-term solution of facilitating a rise in people committing suicide or having their lives ended by the state.”
Macdonald also noted it is a myth that assisted suicide provides a painless death. Live Action News previously reported that a review of 165 oral Medical Assistance in Dying cases in the Netherlands between 2013-2015 showed that some patients experienced retching, survived more than 60 minutes after administration of the drugs, and some even fell asleep before being able to complete the medication.
Moreover, in Oregon, where assisted suicide has been legal since 1997, the state’s annual report showed cases of regaining consciousness after taking the lethal drugs, reports of ‘difficulty ingesting’ and ‘regurgitating’ the drugs, three seizures, and other unspecified complications.
Studies show that people who seek assisted suicide are not typically seeking a so-called “dignified” death, but are instead dealing with depression and hopelessness, and fear being a burden to their loved ones.
Everyone has a right to life, including the sick. Higher suicide rates shouldn’t be used as evidence to kill those battling a terminal or serious illness. This should be an important reminder that we need to improve access to the care they really need.
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