Popular arguments used to back assisted suicide are philosophically and legally inconsistent, influential thinkers have said.
Lord Carlile of Berriew KC, philosopher Baroness O’Neill of Bengarve and former Supreme Court judge Lord Jonathan Sumption highlighted the serious flaws in pro-assisted suicide rhetoric in their forewords to a Policy Exchange report.
The experts wrote in support of ethicist Prof John Keown’s critique of the case made by Peers in support of Baroness Meacher’s failed assisted suicide Bill in the 2021 House of Lords debate.
Lord Carlile KC, a former leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, stated: “Deliberately killing another person other than in war or as capital punishment has never been permitted by UK jurisdictions”.
an astonishing departure from our common law and legislative principles
He continued: “to permit a third person to end a life with no other physical purpose would be an astonishing departure from our common law and legislative principles”.
Furthermore, he said, his previous experience as a member of the General Medical Council left him “in no doubt that there are some professionals who would abuse a law permitting euthanasia.
“The risk is small, but the possibility is real and horrific.”
Unjustified and inconsistent
Lord Sumption pointed to the glaring inconsistency at the heart of the pro-assisted suicide cause: “What is the justification for allowing medically assisted suicide but limiting it to those believed to be close to death or in intolerable pain, actual or prospective?
“There are so many other reasons why one might want to end one’s life. Once the moral barrier has been crossed, what is the logical stopping point?”
Lady O’Neill dismissed the common argument that legalising assisted suicide respected personal autonomy. She countered that personal autonomy is not “a reliable basis for all ethical claims”, nor an appropriate foundation for “just laws and institutions”.
‘Execution by healthcare’
Last month, Danny Kruger MP warned that assisted suicide is not healthcare but an “execution” of those deemed not worthy to live.
In a Channel 4 documentary, the Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Dying Well highlighted that it is impossible to introduce assisted suicide safely.
He said when you permit doctors “to decide that some people are better off dead, you will inevitably end up expanding the criteria” to access it.
Attempts to legalise assisted suicide are currently under way in Scotland, Jersey and the Isle of Man.