The weakest members of society will be most at risk if the law on assisted suicide is changed, a report from a leading think-tank has warned.
Cristina Odone’s report for the Centre for Policy Studies cautioned that such a change could lead some of society’s most defenceless members to feel that they have an obligation to end their lives.
The report cautions: “As assisted suicide becomes embedded in our culture, investing resources in caring for these vulnerable groups will be seen as a waste: they’ll be gone.
It added: “Britain will be a collection of individualists in the prime of life and good health. Anyone else will have felt compelled to end their miserable existence.”
The warning was made in a new report, entitled Assisted Suicide – How the chattering classes have got it wrong, which was released earlier this week.
She said: “The elderly, people with severe disabilities, the mentally unstable, and those with terminal illnesses will be presented with self-inflicted death as a natural, normal and expected final solution.”
She added: “They may feel that, once over a certain age, or grown too dependent on others, or too fed up with life, or too ill, they should opt for death rather than life.
“Worse, many may be coerced, actively or subtly, by cost-conscious hospitals, or by intended heirs with an eye to a legacy, or by exhausted carers.”
And in a comment piece published in the wake of the report she cautioned that assisted suicide could very easily turn into euthanasia.
She said: “When someone’s disability, age or income is considered reason enough to help them die, the message is clear: the disabled, elderly and disadvantaged are dispensable.
“Once this is the consensus, who is to stop us dispensing with them when and how we see fit? Assisted suicide slips quietly, almost unnoticed, to euthanasia.
“This is already happening in Oregon, one of three American states where assisted suicide is legal.”
Earlier this year the Director of Public Prosecutions for England and Wales unveiled new guidance which indicated that people were unlikely to be prosecuted for assisting a suicide if they were “wholly motivated by compassion”.
And Margo MacDonald MSP is currently campaigning to get assisted suicide legalised in Scotland.
Mrs MacDonald’s controversial End of Life Assistance (Scotland) Bill would legalise assisted suicide for terminally ill patients.
However the Bill has been greeted with widespread opposition by medics, bioethicists and disability campaigners.