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SPUC condemns incapacity bill report as pro-euthanasia whitewash, research on incapable patients sinister

28 November 2003

SPUC condemns incapacity bill report as pro-euthanasia "whitewash", research on incapable patients "sinister" London, 28 November 2003--The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) has condemned the parliamentary joint committee on the draft Mental Incapacity Bill for its biased report (issued today) endorsing the bill. Anthony Ozimic, SPUC political secretary, said: "The committee's support for euthanasia by neglect and assisted suicide is clear. The law protecting the right to life is misrepresented and undermined by this report. The committee 's recommendation that mentally-incapacitated patients should be used as guinea-pigs in medical research without their consent is a sinister move to violate the human rights of the vulnerable. "The committee's report on the draft bill is a whitewash and can have no credibility, as the committee was stacked with members who were likely to support the bill. Many of the committee's members are closely linked with or even official roles in organisations lobbying in favour of the bill.* The chairman and half of the committee are members of the government party, including Laura Moffatt, a junior minister in the department which authored the bill. "There has been an agenda to manipulate the committee's inquiry. Committee-member Paul Burstow, Liberal Democrat health spokesman, pre-empted the committee's report by issuing a press release weeks ago championing the bill. On 18 October, Mr Burstow was nominated for an award by Help the Aged, which is lobbying in favour of the bill. The other Liberal Democrat on the committee, Baroness Barker, is a management consultant to Age Concern, which has also been lobbying in favour of the bill. "It is particularly suspicious that the person chosen to chair the committee, Lord Carter, is not only a former Labour chief whip, but is also a Catholic peer, listed in the national Catholic Directory - though not a pro-life supporter. He is said to have criticised SPUC's information about the Bill announced in many catholic churches. Was Lord Carter deliberately chosen as chairman to try to defuse the Catholic Church's opposition? "The only member of the committee who actively exercised significant independence of the government's agenda was Baroness Knight of Collingtree. SPUC congratulates Lady Knight for her concerted efforts to warn her parliamentary colleagues that the deliberate killing of vulnerable patients by denial of sustenance is a real and present danger, particularly if the government's draft bill becomes law. These fears have caused governments of both colours to keep these proposals at arm's length hitherto. "The bill does not have the widest possible public support' that the former Lord Chancellor said the Government was 'determined' that any mental incapacity law reform should 'command'. The committee's claim that all the 1,200 written submissions were 'given due consideration' is implausible. We believe that the overwhelming majority were opposed to the bill - yet the committee has ignored public opinion by endorsing the bill. "The committee's bias is even more apparent when one considers that there is no consensus among lawyers, doctors, ethicists or relevant charities on the bill. Leading experts in the fields of law, medicine and bioethics have warned that the draft bill threatens the lives, health and access to justice of the some of the most vulnerable members of society. "Learning disability group People First have said: 'If the Mental Incapacity Bill becomes a new law it will be a very big step backwards for people with learning difficulties' rights.' "The introduction of pre-legislative committees to consider draft bills was meant to improve scrutiny of legislation, yet this committee's bias brings parliamentary democracy into disrepute", concluded Mr. Ozimic. SPUC will be issuing a detailed rebuttal of the committee's report shortly. * e.g. Lord Rix (cross-bencher), president of Mencap; Baroness Wilkins (Lab), formerly an information officer for MIND.

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