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Defending life from the moment of conception

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Disabled people oppose euthanasia on Isle of Man

9 September 2003

Disabled people oppose euthanasia on Isle of Man London, 9 September 2003--Legalising euthanasia on the Isle of Man would compromise the right to life of disabled and sick people and further undermine their dignity and status, according to a disability rights group. The submission by No Less Human to the House of Keys' select committee on voluntary euthanasia says: "Vulnerable people deserve better than being told that death is in the best interests of those who suffer. What we need is help to live with dignity, until we die naturally." No Less Human asserts that it is fundamentally wrong to kill vulnerable people, whether or not they have requested death. Those who are terminally ill or incurably disabled should be treated using the same ethical code as would be applied to any other person. Alison Davis, the submission's author, said: "People use the principle of autonomy as a justification for voluntary euthanasia. However, such freedom to make decisions entails a responsibility to act ethically, and euthanasia is deeply unethical." The submission states: "Compassion does not mean simply giving people what they want, or say they want, or what others think they ought to want." The submission points out how the interpretation of what is in patients' best interests has changed in recent years. The expression once meant preserving life, maintaining or restoring health and minimising suffering. However, best interests are now also being interpreted as including patients' wishes and feelings. This is dangerous because suicidally depressed people can wish they were dead even though dying is not in their best interests. No Less Human also points how doctors' duty to act in their patients' true best interests can never include deliberately killing them. The submission states that, while attempted suicide has been decriminalised, there is no legal right to suicide. The 1998 Human Rights Act protects everyone's right to life and it is false to argue that there is a corresponding right to die. The document warns that safeguards in any law allowing euthanasia would not protect the vulnerable. It points out that, in the Netherlands, where euthanasia was legalised in January of last year, mentally disabled people are particularly vulnerable to euthanasia decisions. The group challenges the idea of death with dignity. Describing cases of people with motor neurone disease who have requested help to end their lives, the submission states: "With proper palliative care, including all necessary hospice support, the choice is between deliberate killing and a peaceful, truly dignified death made as pain free as possible by experts in pain control." It also points out that, in most cases of euthanasia in the Netherlands, pain is not the main reason for patients' asking to die. A hospice doctor has estimated that at least 95% of physical pain can be completely and easily relieved and all patients can be helped in some way. Alison Davis has spina bifida, emphysema and osteoporosis, and uses a wheelchair full time. She suffers considerable pain and was suicidal until friends gave her hope. She writes in the submission: "What has changed is not my medical condition, but my outlook on life." No Less Human is a group for disabled people, their families and carers, and is part of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children. Alison Davis, the author of the submission, can be telephoned on (01258) 837546. No Less Human's submission to the House of Keys' select committee on voluntary euthanasia is on the world-wide web at .

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