Palliative care expert warns: ‘Assisted suicide Bill a cheap solution for human suffering’

Baroness Meacher’s assisted suicide Bill risks becoming a “cheap solution for human suffering”, a highly respected palliative care expert has warned.

Writing for The House magazine, Lady Meacher’s colleague Baroness Finlay of Llandaff said legalising assisted suicide would hinder proper care and that the Bill offered nothing in the way of safeguards for the vulnerable.

Lady Finlay is Professor of Palliative Medicine at Cardiff University and a Vice President of Hospice UK.


“Baroness Meacher’s Assisted Dying Bill is the fourth attempt to legalise giving lethal drugs to terminally ill people to end their lives,” said Lady Finlay.

“The fundamental and practical flaws in the bill are clearly exposed by the range of amendments that have been put down.

“It is therefore surprising, and worrying, that proponents of what is being euphemistically called ‘assisted dying’ have put forward an almost identical bill each time and have not addressed the concerns raised by the House on earlier occasions.”

Wrong message

The palliative care expert continued: “The experience of those countries that have gone down the ‘assisted dying’ road shows the development of palliative care is impeded where such legislation is in place.”

“Diverting time, effort and resources away from improving palliative care”, she argued, “suggests to terminally ill people that dignity and disease are incompatible, and sends the subliminal message that ending one’s life should be considered”.

She also said: “By normalising suicide, such legislation creates a lacuna in suicide prevention strategies.”

‘Blank cheque’

Lady Finlay went on to criticise the Bill for lacking “any actual safeguards”.

“All it contains”, she said, “are vague phrases about the need to be sure that someone requesting lethal drugs is making a voluntary and informed request, has a settled wish to take their own life, and has the capacity to make the decision.”

The bill is, in effect, asking Parliament to sign a blank cheque.

She added: “We are not talking about tax law here. We are talking about life-or-death judgments and offering lethal drugs to end life.”

“For such a major change to the law, safeguards are of the essence, not details for later consideration. The bill is, in effect, asking Parliament to sign a blank cheque.”

Exploits vulnerable

In October, over sixty members of the House of Lords spoke out against Baroness Meacher’s Assisted Dying Bill, which seeks to legalise giving lethal drugs to those deemed to have less than six months to live to end their lives.

The Bill is now at Committee Stage, but faces many more hurdles before it can become law.

In 2015, a Bill to remove existing safeguards in England and Wales was soundly defeated in the House of Commons by 330 votes to 118.

In Scotland, the public consultation on Liam McArthur’s assisted suicide Bill closed on 22 December. But fellow MSP Pam Duncan-Glancy has warned that weakening end of life protections is “a danger” to the vulnerable.

Also see:


Peer: ‘Listen to the vulnerable – don’t legalise assisted suicide’

Man given just 6 months to live 19 years ago thankful assisted suicide is illegal

‘Assisted suicide Bill opens door to coercion’, palliative care experts warn

Senior doctor: Assisted suicide is ‘neither painless nor dignified’

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