Euthanasia is ethical option 2

January 22, 2009

Until recently I was a higher education lecturer. I now have advanced breast cancer and anticipate a difficult death. Reassurances about pain relief and symptom control do not help the distress I feel at my lack of choices over how and when I actually die.

The major pro-change lobby in the UK, Dignity in Dying, faces highly organised and entrenched opposition. The last major parliamentary attempt to change the law, the Joffe Bill in 2006, was thrown out of the House of Lords. At such moments, the power of the Church of England is enough to defeat any bill in the Upper House. Religious groups combine with radical disability groups such as Not Yet Dead UK, which argues that a change in law on assisted dying is dangerous and damaging to terminally ill and disabled people and that it feeds the myth that certain lives are not worth living.

This argument misses the point about individual choice and ignores the now-substantial evidence from Oregon and Europe that safeguards can be put in place to ensure that a law would not be abused.

Academics could become one new powerful lobbying group for change. Theologians, social scientists, health professionals and philosophers all have a role in persuading those in power to change the law in a humane and civilising direction. In the meantime, lobby your MP to sign Early Day Motion 230, which calls for changes in the context of the Coroners and Justice Bill.

Jane Andrews, Winchester.

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