A pro-life leader has spoken out against assisted suicide following the news of Gill Pharaoh, a 75-year-old woman who killed herself in a Swiss suicide clinic because she did not want to become a “hobbling old lady”.
Dr Peter Saunders, Campaign Director of Care Not Killing (CNK), appeared on ITV News London last week alongside Dr Michael Irwin, a retired GP and Director of the Society for Old Age Rational Suicide.
Dr Saunders said that many people were “shocked and appalled” at the death of Gill Pharaoh, a former palliative care nurse, and stressed that there are “limits to personal choice”.
Very, very dangerous
ITV presenter Nina Hossain asked Dr Saunders if, in light of Pharaoh’s actions, assisted suicide was something that required an “open debate”.
He responded: “I think that when we start to promote suicide as a solution for life’s problems, we’re on a very, very dangerous, slippery slope indeed.”
After the interview, Care Not Killing said, “there are able-bodied people who desperately want their lives to end – either because they have lost hope or, as in Pharaoh’s case, because of what they fear might happen to them in the future.
“Which should surely prompt the response of us doing all we can, both to restore hope and to allay fear, by caring for the physical, social and spiritual needs of the whole person. Not to pass over a barbiturate-spiked drink or provide accompaniment for a grisly last journey.”
CNK added that Pharaoh’s “main argument is autonomy – choice”.
The group wrote: “But the truth is that choice, although resonating with the zeitgeist of our postmodern secular humanist society, is a vacuous argument.
I think that when we start to promote suicide as a solution for life’s problems, we’re on a very, very dangerous, slippery slope indeed.Dr Peter Saunders
“Each one of us actually believes that there are limits to choice. That is precisely why in a free democratic society we have laws.”
Referring to the idea that people become a burden on others during old age and infirmity, CNK added: “Being a burden is part and parcel of being human.
“All of us at some time of our lives – not least at both ends – will be a burden. But ‘mutual burdensomeness’ is what true family and community is all about.
“Because a truly free and humane society is one in which the strong willingly make sacrifices for the weak, rather than sacrifice the weak to preserve their own freedoms.”