Legalising assisted suicide would be a major change in the law on intentional killing, and could pressurise people who feel they are a burden, a Christian medical ethics expert has warned.
Professor John Wyatt explained that supporters of MP Rob Marris’ Bill, to be debated in the House of Commons next month, use “deliberately soft-sounding language such as ‘assisted dying’ to make it sound gentle, natural and compassionate”.
But, he argued, drugs for assisted suicide are designed to “kill, rapidly and cleanly”.
“It is often suggested that doctors are helping people to die every day and all that is being proposed is a regularisation of the law.
“But this, I am afraid, is a downright lie. The drugs that palliative care doctors use are designed to treat pain and anxiety but they are not designed to kill.”
“The intention of the doctor is revealed by the drugs that are selected”, he noted.
Wyatt said that the current law preventing doctors from intentionally killing protects them and patients from pressure to consider assisted suicide.
He said that if the practice is legalised, “doctors and patients will find themselves under covert pressure”.
“Pressure on terminally ill patients to kill themselves might come from family members or medical professionals, but it may also be self-imposed, especially for those who feel that they are being a burden on others.”
He added: “There is a deep and tragic irony that it is precisely those elderly people who are most sensitive to the needs and concerns of others who may be most at risk of being emotionally manipulated into taking their own lives.”
Wyatt concluded: “In Christian thinking we are not just individuals making choices and doing our own thing.
“We are locked together in community, bound together by duties of care, responsibility and compassion.
“Respect for life, and the prohibition of suicide and killing, is part of the glue which binds society together.
“It is the way we have been made, and this is the way that the common good can be promoted and protected.”
Prof Wyatt’s article is one of a series written for the Christian Today website in opposition to Marris’ Bill.
The Bill would allow patients thought to have less than six months to live to obtain lethal drugs to kill themselves.