Monday, November 15, 2010

Two-Thirds of Britons Support Legal Euthanasia: Angus Reid Poll

by Hilary White

LONDON, November 12, 2010 ( – An Angus Reid poll, published on Thursday, found that 67 percent of 2,015 adult respondents support legalizing outright euthanasia in the UK.

Fifty-five percent said they believe parents who “assist a terminally ill son or daughter to die should not be punished,” and 58 percent think “people who help a person to commit suicide should not be prosecuted.”

Eighty-three percent said that euthanasia would give suffering people “an opportunity to ease their pain” and 77 percent believed it would “establish clearer guidelines” for doctors to deal with end-of-life decisions.

Only 30 percent said that legalizing euthanasia would “send the message that the lives of the sick or disabled are less valuable.”

Britons are evenly split on the question of whether legalizing euthanasia would leave vulnerable people “without sufficient legal protection,” with 43 percent agreeing and 42 percent disagreeing.

However, in a letter to the British paper The Herald published this week, British disability rights campaigner Alison Davis, who belongs to the disability rights group No Less Human and who is herself disabled, said that the euthanasia movement’s propaganda dehumanizes disabled and ill people, focusing only on their suffering, and ignoring them as people.

She highlighted the danger of such proposed laws to the legal protection of disabled people. Writing in response to an opinion piece by the notoriously anti-life bioethicist, Baroness Mary Warnock, a leading consultant for government policies on medical ethics, Davis said the insistence on the efficacy of legal “safeguards” in such legislation misses the point.

The “more basic problem,” Davis said, are that the safeguards in any legislation “would be written by the very people who want to legally hasten the end of some people’s lives.”

Typical “safeguards,” she said, require that the patient must be terminally ill or have an incurable disability, must be adult, suffering “unbearably and unrelievably” and that the “choice” must be entirely theirs.

“All well and good, one might think (that is, if one were not a member of any of those categories).”

Referring to her own case, Davis said that a disabled person who lives past doctors’ predictions, “has found that she can use her talents to help others, even more vulnerable than herself, to live and to have better lives than they otherwise would. Fast forward a further 15 years and she is still alive, more determined than ever to live whatever life she has left to the full.”

“Would the Warnocks of this world agree to add a waiting time – 10 or 20 years – to any bill they draw up, in case of a change of mind?”

“Because human beings are fallible, because life can be good even with great pain, because nobody knows when doctors’ prognoses will be wrong.”

She called it “sheer folly” to propose legal assisted suicide for the disabled, but to spend public funds on suicide prevention programs.

“If I had died 25 years ago, I would have missed the best years of my life. Mary Warnock’s mistake is that she seems unable to look past the suffering to see the person, a sad affliction indeed.”

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