Friday 11 September saw the House of Commons vote on the Assisted Dying Bill, an issue on which MPs have voted for the first time in almost 20 years.
The bill outlined proposals for a right to die in England and Wales and allow some terminally ill adults to end their lives with medical supervision. 118 MPs voted for and 330 were against.
As the largest Christian disability charity in the UK, Livability recognise and uphold the sanctity of human life and support the decision reached in parliament.
The suffering and difficulty of many people with terminal illness should not be underestimated. But despite the provision in the bill for disabled people, Livability holds concern that many disabled people would have been at risk if the bill had passed.
As with most disability groups that are against the proposed changes, we hold concern that disabled people may feel (or be made to feel) pressurised into going down this route. At its most extreme the ‘right to die’ may become a ‘duty’ for the most vulnerable people.
Some argue that Assisted Dying could as readily be termed Assisted Suicide, and public attitudes to suicide are clear.
While people who attempt to take their own lives are, rightly, treated with understanding, suicide itself is not regarded as something to be encouraged, much less assisted – as evidenced by suicide watches and suicide prevention strategies.
We echo the concerns of our charity President – the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby – who has stated his opposition the bill. Welby has said, ‘it changes our whole approach to the value of life to have assisted suicide.’
‘It would be very naive to think that many of the elderly people who are abused and neglected each year, as well as many severely disabled individuals, would not be put under pressure to end their lives if assisted suicide were permitted by law.’
Dave Webber, CEO of Livability said:
‘We recognize that assisted dying is a highly complex issue. We must never downplay the extremity of suffering and difficulty that the terminally ill experience. However, as a charity committed to supporting disabled people live supported and valued lives, we support the outcome of the House of Commons vote on Assisted Dying.
‘Our concern would be that if the bill had gone through, in the most extreme of cases it may increase pressure on more vulnerable disabled people to end their lives, whereas in fact it should be the role of our communities to create places of support and safety for all.’