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Defending life from the moment of conception

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Lords are sent 71,600 letters about assisted dying bill

28 April 2006

Lords are sent 71,600 letters about assisted dying bill Links to high-resolution pictures of the event are at the foot of the page. Westminster, 28 April 2006 - Nearly 72,000 letters expressing concern at plans to legalise assisted suicide were delivered to members of the House of Lords today. It is believed that this is one of the biggest ever concerted efforts to lobby peers by letter. Those delivering the letters included doctors, nurses, carers and people who have had personal experience of being with family or friends suffering from terminal illness. The letters are about Lord Joffe's Assisted Dying for the Terminally Ill Bill which is to be debated in the House of Lords in two weeks' time (on 12 May). The personal letters, from 100 independent individuals, have each been copied 716 times so that each peer who can vote will receive a version of each letter. Mr Leon Menzies Racionzer of Woodford, Essex, the organiser, said: " Lord Joffe's bill will open the floodgates. If it becomes law, then people who are perceived as being a burden could be put down. The answer is actually palliative care for the long-term ill, not death. "We need to arm those peers who are on our side. Very many people are concerned. These letters come from people at the cutting edge. There would be many peers who probably wouldn't even turn up for a debate on a non-government bill but, if they get 100 letters through the letter-box, they may think twice." Paul Tully, general secretary of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, said: "Peers must realise the fear that this bill is causing among people most affected: elderly people, disabled people, medical staff and those who have cared for dying relatives. People want to see the bill defeated on 12 May, so that the threat of the Joffe bill ends there." Quotations from letters delivered today follow. In her letter to peers, Mrs Ann Farmer of Woodford, Essex, wrote: "Since becoming disabled I have experienced serious difficulties in obtaining NHS treatment and referrals, compounded by attitudes significantly lacking in compassion. The impression I have received during this time is that resources are in short supply and that there are too many patients not receiving care, or receiving inadequate care. Media representations of sick and disabled people tend to focus almost exclusively on the 'right' to be killed, while neglecting the fact that the care offered by hospices can almost totally alleviate the pain and discomfort associated with the dying process." In her letter, Ms Anne Harrison FRCP wrote: " I believe this measure will lead to a further erosion of the relationship of trust that exists between a doctor and patient. Doctors have for centuries regarded helping patients to kill themselves as inconsistent with their role as healers and the World Medical association remains opposed to this sort of legalisation." Dr Bernarda Sekolec, aged 94 of Chingford, wrote: " My fear now is that this Bill will open the floodgates for people in my current state of disability to feel obliged to request assistance in taking their own lives. Yes, I do feel a burden on others but those who care for me do not see me as a burden. They have told me that caring for me is good for them as it makes them feel they are doing something worthwhile." Dr Ben Blake-James MB BS MRCS wrote: "I strongly believe we should, as a society as well as doctors, strive to alleviate the suffering of these people and help ensure a dignified and peaceful death. The way to achieve this however is surely not to kill the patient, but to kill their pain. Rather than procuring a means of dying we should be concentrating on meeting the patients needs, be they physical, social or spiritual." Ms Bridget Bernadette Harris RGN RHV CPT, a Senior Nurse Manager/Clinical Governance Lead in Primary Care from Walthamstow, London, wrote: "Palliative care is known to have become very successful in modern medicine. This is not just the administering of drugs but includes concern for a patient's relatives and seeing that a patient enjoys living his or her final hours, days, weeks or months. Relatives find mourning easier when a loved one has died painlessly in such as a hospice environment." Mr Brian Beveridge FRCOphth FRCSEd wrote: "As someone who has cancer and was rescued from this scenario by a skilful combination of surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy, I hope that you will not give this bill any support. The number of instances when any of us truly wish to end our lives in this way is tiny: more often the idea of assisted suicide is one that commends itself to those who are well themselves, and have not actually faced the prospect of death. Modern therapy and palliative care, properly administered, enables virtually all who find themselves in this position to die with dignity." Mrs Coleen Carlile wrote: "My husband contracted a brain tumour at the age of forty and spent months battling with his illness. The pain was real for him and also for me, watching him die, but I know those last precious months of his life were important for both of us, and for our young children, in order to say our goodbyes properly. What we did have to fight for was decent palliative care, which was hard to obtain due to lack of beds, but once we did have that option, my husband's pain was eased and we spent many valuable hours together in peace and, odd though it may seem in the circumstances, happiness." Ms Debbie Bloise RGN RDN, an experienced palliative care nurse, wrote: "I feel that the first step forward has to be tackling this issue of ignorance by providing information and education to all agencies concerned. Research has shown that most people wish to die at home or in a hospice. So more funding should be given to these, especially for 24hr nursing back up in the community to support the individual and their carers/family." Imam Dr Mohammad Fahim wrote: "As a Muslim I cannot condone any form of taking life whether or not a person consents to suicide or requests euthanasia. Any deliberate act to take life is strictly against the principles of our faith. As a care home proprietor I am in a unique position to observe people in different conditions of mental capacity but also the relatives who, in spite of witnessing their relatives demented state, would never accede to euthanasia toward which I believe this Bill is but a first step." Mrs Joanna Elflain wrote: "I myself have been an ill person most of my life since childhood, I now have lung cancer but struggle to keep going as my family would, I know, be devastated if I died too soon. I feel very sure that the families of the people that this Bill is aimed at would go through the same trauma (worse in fact) knowing that they were unable to do anything to prevent the consented death of their relative knowing full well that the consent might be under duress because it had become the thing to do." Even though the 71,600 letters are being hand-delivered, each must have a stamp on it. Mr Menzies Racionzer can be called on (020) 8559 1617. Pictures by John R Rifkin Supporters of the campaign against Lord Joffe's Assisted Suicide for the Terminally Ill Bill at Westminster today (28 April) with their 71,600 letters to peers which they delivered to the House of Lords. * general picture * a supporter holds up a bag containing some of the letters .

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