Legalising assisted suicide would pose a serious threat to disabled people, campaigners have warned MPs.
Representatives of disability groups opposed to any change to the law in England and Wales voiced their objections in evidence to the Health and Social Care Committee inquiry into assisted suicide and euthanasia.
The anonymised transcript of May’s roundtable discussion involving four disability campaigners was recently published on the committee’s website.
Participant A, once in favour of assisted suicide, said they had not been persuaded that disabled people could be “protected from any kind of coercion” to get help to kill themselves.
The campaigner also conveyed a growing sense of unease about the value society seemed to place on “disabled people’s lives”.
“We’re sending out a message which says, ‘Here’s an option, you can cost the state £5,000 a week for health and social care support needs, or you cost them £1,500 as a one-off and that will solve everybody’s problem’”.
The participant also argued: “If you have palliative care that works really, really well, then people are less likely to want to ask for assisted suicide.”
Another contributor, drawing upon 25 years of experience in the disability sector, stated: “I don’t think there is a single deaf and disabled people’s organisation that’s in favour of legalisation”.
They expressed the fear that people in distress might see assisted suicide as an ‘easy way out’, not because of disability or pain, “but just because they can’t access basic support”.
And the final person giving evidence – severely disabled, a power chair user, already in receipt of palliative care – explained that people “will come up and say things like, ‘If I was you, I’d kill myself’, ‘Don’t you wish you were dead?’”
The campaigner continued, “there’s this massive preconception” that disabled people want assisted suicide laws because they “do not want to live with the lives they’ve got”. Such a belief, they countered, “is not true”.
But in June, the Swiss business Dignitas told MPs that mentally ill people should be allowed to choose to be killed by assisted suicide.
Speaking to the committee, Dignitas team member Silvan Luley said it was “about time” the UK removed safeguards protecting the vulnerable from assisted suicide and if it did, “the best thing would be to come as close to the Swiss model as possible”.