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Parliament on the brink of legalising euthanasia by neglect, warns SPUC

24 March 2005

Parliament on the brink of legalising euthanasia by neglect, warns SPUC Westminster, 24th March 2005 - The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) has warned that Parliament is on the brink of legalising euthanasia by neglect, following the House of Lords' approval of the Mental Capacity Bill this afternoon. The Bill now returns to the House of Commons on 5th April for the Commons to consider amendments made by the Government to the Bill in the House of Lords. However, the Commons may only be given one hour to consider the Lords' amendments. The Bill as a whole was passed by the Lords without a division, partly due to the departure of many Lords for the Easter holiday. Earlier, a pro-life amendment to restrict lasting powers of attorney was defeated 118 to 18. John Smeaton, SPUC national director, said: "Scheduling such a crucial debate on a pro-life issue on such an inconvenient day and time shows contempt for democracy. Any member of the House of Commons who is concerned about euthanasia must do whatever is possible on 5th April to reverse the Bill's euthanasia nature. Parliament is on the brink - it can either preserve what is left of the sanctity of human life in our law or make the survival of the fittest the standard for our health service. "Deliberate killing by dehydration has become more prevalent since the 1993 Bland judgment. The Government is determined not to accept any amendment which it fears would overturn the Bland judgement. The Bland judgement opened the door for doctors to dehydrate and starve to death certain mentally incapacitated patients. What the Government clearly intends to do, through advance decisions, lasting powers of attorney, the re-definition of best interests and medical treatment, is to extend the principles of the Bland decision to all mentally incapacitated patients. The failure to address this problem will have profound repercussions. The passage of the Bill will mean that doctors will be forced to choose between killing some of their patients and leaving the profession. It will destroy what is left of medical ethics in this country", concluded Mr Smeaton. Summary of the Mental Capacity Bill's effects The Bill will enshrine deliberate killing by omission in statute. It does this in a number of ways: * by redrawing (or removing) crucial medical and legal principles and distinctions, including the presumption in favour of life, liability/negligence, patient consent, the medical treatment/basic care distinction; * by enshrining the principles of the Law Lords' Bland judgment in statute; * by extending these principles to a much wider range of incapacitated patients; * by establishing a new test for patients' "best interests," with no reference to existing criteria; * by giving overriding force to advance refusals of treatment, including suicidal ones; * by allowing proxy decision-makers to make deliberately life-ending decisions for incapacitated patients.

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