Baroness Warnock has said that elderly people suffering from dementia are “wasting people’s lives” and “wasting the resources of the National Health Service” and should be allowed to die.
Lady Warnock’s comments, which were published in an interview with the magazine of the Church of Scotland, Life and Work, have been condemned by dementia charities.
She told the magazine: “If you’re demented, you’re wasting people’s lives – your family’s lives – and you’re wasting the resources of the National Health Service.
“I’m absolutely, fully in agreement with the argument that if pain is insufferable, then someone should be given help to die, but I feel there’s a wider argument that if somebody absolutely, desperately wants to die because they’re a burden to their family, or the state, then I think they too should be allowed to die.
“Actually I’ve just written an article called ‘A Duty to Die?’ for a Norwegian periodical. I wrote it really suggesting that there’s nothing wrong with feeling you ought to do so for the sake of others as well as yourself.”
But Neil Hunt, the chief executive of the Alzheimer’s Society, said: “I am shocked and amazed that Baroness Warnock could disregard the value of the lives of people with dementia so callously.
“With the right care, a person can have good quality of life very late in to dementia. To suggest that people with dementia shouldn’t be entitled to that quality of life or that they should feel that they have some sort of duty to kill themselves is nothing short of barbaric.”
Mike Judge of The Christian Institute said: “Baroness Warnock seems to be saying that a person’s life is only worth continuing if it is valued by other people and, more worryingly, by the state.
“It is appalling to suggest that the elderly should have to consider it a duty to end their own lives in case they become a burden on their families. Surely the real duty lies with their families and with society to care for them.”
Lady Warnock was chair of the 1984 Government committee responsible for deciding the status of the human embryo. The Warnock Report concluded that human embryos should have ‘special status’ only after 14 days when a rudimentary nervous system (‘the primitive streak’) has developed.
As a result of the Warnock Report, scientists are allowed to perform destructive experiments on embryos that are younger than 14 days old. Scientists argue that embryonic research will enable them to find cures for conditions such as Alzheimer’s.
Baroness Warnock also voted in favour of the creation of animal-human embryos when the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill was considered by the House of Lords.