debate on euthanasia bill
BY JOE .TENKINS CARDINAL HUME last week launched an uncompromising salvo against the Bill that will next week offer MPs the chance to vote for the legalisation of euthanasia, which has so far only been sanctioned through the courts.
The Cardinal's response to the tabling of the Doctor Assisted Dying Bill — which is viewed by Catholic campaigners as an attempt to enshrine euthanasia on the statute book through the back door — appeared in The Times last week. In an article entitled "The death of trust", he wrote that contemporary morality "finds offensive the traditional teaching on the sanctity of human life" and argued that there is a clear distinction between good palliative care, which sometimes hastens death, and the intentional withdrawal of treatment, which he called "passive" euthanasia. The High Court decision to allow the death of Motor Neurone Disease patient Annie Lindsell, who died on Tuesday, was not a victory for the proeuthanasia lobby, he said.
The 10-minute Bill, tabled by Joe Ashton, the Labour MP for Bassetlaw, is to be heard next Wednesday. The experiences of Mr Ashton and one of his leading oppo
nents illuminates their strongly-held views.
Mr Ashton told the Catholic Herald: "I'm now 64 and a few years ago I saw my father die of Parkinson's over a long time. He couldn't eat or sleep. He said: 'I'll be glad when my time has come'. I thought, I couldn't die this way.
"My Bill is not about euthanasia. It simply gives the choice to the patient and not to the doctor — but he can refuse it."
Nuala Scarisbrick, a Trustee of Catholic charity Life, said that her antieuthanasia views were confirmed last year when she nursed her dying father after he suffered an aortic aneurism. "When my father was in pain his doctor administered drugs which gave him very good pain relief and he died in his own bed. I don't see anything wrong with this. Death is a lovely process if the pain is controlled," she said.
"Raising the dose will hasten the end but doesn't interfere with the natural process of death. Once you get this posh talk about physician-assisted suicide all this will go out the window, just as it has in Holland, where the nurse becomes a killer."
The Bill, she said, would "give the power to use drugs directly to end life".
Mr Ashton said that if made law his Bill would probably only shorten the lives of patients by just three or four weeks. Abuse of the law could lead to a 14-year prison sentence and a firm Code of Practice would be set in place.
But on Monday Lord Alton described Mr Ashton's Bill as part of "a determined campaign to try to sleep-walk us all into euthanasia". Lord Alton urged Catholic Herald readers to lobby their MPs by telephoning the House of Commons. The number is 0171-219 3000.