BY ED WEST
GORDON BROWN has spoken out against euthanasia and pledged to fight any change in the law on assisted suicide, the first time a serving prime minister has spoken out on the issue.
Amid a campaign by proeuthanasia groups, and a Sky TV documentary that showed a man dying through assisted suicide, the Prime Minister broke with convention by expressing views on a conscience issue, traditionally an area party leaders do not discuss.
Responding to a question asked in Parliament, Mr Brown said he would never support legislation to permit assisted suicide that might put sick or elderly people under pressure to end their life.
He said that broadcasters had a duty to deal with the issue "sensitively and without sensationalism".
He added: "I believe that it's necessary to ensure that there is a never a case in the country where a sick or elderly person feels under pressure to agree to an assisted death or somehow feels it's the expected thing to do. That's why I've always opposed legislation for assisted deaths."
Mr Brown was questioned hours before a television documentary showed the death of motor neuron disease sufferer Craig Ewen, the first time
footage of assisted suicide had been shown on British television.
Lord Warner, a former Health Minister in favour of a change of the law, said: "Gordon Brown's comments are not terribly helpful... survey after survey has shown that 75 to 80 per cent of the population are in favour of assisted dying for the terminally ill when their pain has become unbearable, providing there are appropriate safeguards in place."
But Dr Rachel Pickering of anti-euthanasia group Care Not Killing praised the Prime Minister and claimed that euthanasia was being pushed as a cheaper alternative to palliative care.
"Gordon Brown has done a very sensible thing," she said: "He's the leader, he's the Prime Minister, and he's put his personal view on record, which I think is admirable. We've had many cases of people calling for their 'right' to die, so it's not surprising that Gordon Brown has felt the need to clarify his position. He did so in response to a question put forward by an MP. I hope the rest of' his Government will follow suit."
She added: "Calls for assisted suicide are made vocally by a small minority. It's time we heard more from the large minority who are overwhelmingly opposed to it. All medical bodies are firmly opposed to a change in the law."