Government bruised by anti euthanasia MPs over Capacity Bill
12 October 2004
Government bruised by anti-euthanasia MPs over Capacity Bill Westminster, 12 October 2004 - Yesterday's second reading debate on the government's Mental Capacity Bill was dominated by criticisms of the Bill for permitting euthanasia by neglect and assisted suicide for vulnerable adults. The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC), which has campaigned vigorously against the Bill, expressed hope that the level of opposition would force the government to concede major amendments or scrap the Bill and go back to the drawing board. SPUC expressed disappointment bill was not defeated last night, but was hopeful that the opposition of no fewer than 62 MPs voting against the bill would alert people that this was a major step towards putting deliberate killing-by-neglect on the statute book. Iain Duncan Smith, making his first speech since returning to the back-benches, said "euthanasia by omission is at the heart of this bill." Fellow Tory Ann Widdecombe pointed to the definition of treatment as the reason why the Bill was seen as threatening euthanasia by neglect. The bill's definition of food and fluids as 'medical treatment' is why concerned MPs claim that the intention of the bill is the introduction of euthanasia. If food and fluids are defined as 'medical treatment,' which can therefore be withdrawn by asserting that it is not in their best interests, patients who are unable to demand food (such as those affected by the bill) can be killed by starvation and dehydration. Claire Curtis-Thomas, Labour member for Crosby, spoke graphically of the suffering entailed for those who die in this way. She had been asked by doctors to consider leaving her own mother to die from starvation following a major stroke. She insisted that her mother be fed, but under the bill, as it stands, she may not have been offered the option. Government supporters claimed that the bill had the support of disability groups and was not opposed by church leaders. But critics noted the fears of disability rights groups about the dangers and shortcomings of the bill, and pointed to the dissatisfaction of Roman Catholic church leaders - who say that the Bill should not become law in its present form.