A pro-life group has warned that any change to assisted suicide laws would alter the way in which society views the severely disabled and the terminally ill.
Care Not Killing were responding to the launch of a legal case by Noel Conway, who is seeking assistance from doctors to end his life.
It is the first High Court case since a Bill to legalise assisted suicide was soundly defeated in the House of Commons.
A spokesman for the group said a change in the law “would send out a negative message about those who are terminally ill, disabled or old and might pressure some into ending their lives because they feel that they have become either a financial or care burden”.
He added: “The current law exists to protect those who have no voice against exploitation and coercion.
“It acts as a powerful deterrent to would-be abusers and does not need changing.”
The current law exists to protect those who have no voice against exploitation and coercion.
Mr Conway is 67-years-old and has motor neurone disease. He has already signed up with Swiss suicide facility Dignitas.
Dignity in Dying – formerly the Voluntary Euthanasia Society – are supporting his case.
Conway’s legal team are seeking a declaration that the current law is not compatible with his basic human rights and a court decision is expected to be handed out later this week.
Under the law in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, a person who intentionally encourages or assists the suicide or attempted suicide of another person, commits an offence which carries a maximum prison sentence of 14 years.
‘Want to live’
In 2011, an Irishman suffering from motor neurone disease wrote passionately of his overwhelming desire to live when doctors presented him with the option of death.
Writing in The Irish Times, Simon Fitzmaurice explained that when the possibility of switching off his life support machine was raised, a passion to stay alive ‘infused’ his whole body.
He wrote that he believed the doctors were asking the question because they had “made a decision about my standard of living”. He said: “I think that to them, it is inconceivable that I would want to live.”
But Mr Fitzmaurice declared his driving force for life is: “Love for my wife. Love for my children. My friends, my family. Love for life in general. My love is undimmed, unbowed, unbroken. I want to live.”
Assisted suicide remains illegal in the UK.
A Bill to legalise assisted suicide was soundly defeated in the House of Commons in 2015. Following a lengthy debate, MPs voted 330 to 118 against Rob Marris’ Private Members’ Bill.