Medical experts and academics have countered new calls for the law on assisted suicide to be changed.
In an article for online magazine Spiked, author Dr Kevin Yuill warned that legalising assisted suicide for the terminally ill would ‘set us on a slippery slope’. He was echoed by a palliative care expert and professor of diabetic medicine, who wrote to The Times.
Two men seeking assisted suicide in the UK appeared in court last month and Noel Conway, who has a terminal illness, has now won the right to a High Court challenge.
Writing for Spiked, Dr Yuill said: “Legalising any form of assisted suicide would be a foot in the door, which will be progressively prised open.”
“The UK parliament was correct to shut the door on assisted suicide in 2015, and the courts are right to reject these cases and the challenges they are mounting to parliamentary sovereignty”, he added.
Baroness Finlay, Chairwoman of the National Council for Palliative Care, also noted Parliament’s strong rejection of assisted suicide in her letter to The Times.
She wrote: “Those campaigning for assisted suicide have still not addressed the reasons that parliament gave for rejecting physician-assisted suicide.
“For example, prognosis is at best a probabilistic art – no one can accurately predict when someone will die.
“And doctors cannot detect who is being coerced by subtle pressure or through unaddressed fears. The so-called safeguards proposed by campaigners remain paper-thin.”
No law change
Also writing to The Times, Professor Stephanie Amiel, RD Lawrence Professor of Diabetic Medicine at King’s College London, said: “We do not have the right to choose the timing of our births or our deaths”.
She added, “our efforts as a society should surely be directed at ensuring that natural death occurs, without pain or distress (for the dying person) and with dignity.
“We should not change the law to give medical, or any other, professionals power actively to assist other people to exit the world at a time of their choosing.”
A Bill to legalise assisted suicide was soundly defeated in the House of Commons in September 2015, by 330 to 118.
Noel Conway’s case will be the first attempt to liberalise the law through the courts since MPs voted on the issue.
Pro-life group Care Not Killing has announced that it will intervene in the case.