Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson has warned that the latest attempt to legalise assisted suicide in England and Wales poses a serious threat to the lives of disabled people.
In a letter to The Daily Telegraph, the Peer expressed concern that, whilst Baroness Meacher’s Bill did not “explicitly target disabled people”, it was not difficult for many of those living with a disability to see “the writing on the wall”.
The Private Members’ Bill – which received its first reading in the House of Lords last week – would enable those deemed to have six months left to live to get help to kill themselves. Their request would need approval from two doctors and a High Court judge.
In her letter, the Paralympic legend recalled being struck by a statement made by assisted suicide activists who “expressed the view that lethal drugs should not be offered to disabled people ‘at this point in time’”.
Lady Grey-Thompson explained: “I found those five words chilling. They told me that I would not be a candidate for legalised assisted suicide at first, but should consider myself in the waiting room.”
The Peer continued: “Such ‘mission creep’ is inevitable when a law resting on a natural frontier, and applying equally to everyone, irrespective of their state of physical health or physical ability, is replaced by a law with an arbitrary boundary like terminal illness.”
She concluded: “Such laws contain within themselves the seeds of their own expansion. To ignore this is to court danger.”
Baroness Jane Campbell, who has spinal muscular atrophy and therefore uses a wheelchair and relies on a ventilator to help her breathe, has also hit out at the Bill.
Writing in The Telegraph, the former Commissioner of the Disability Rights Commission said others like her were “fearful of any change in the law that would weaken the protection we rely upon now”.
Lady Campbell said the majority of terminally ill and disabled people do not want assisted suicide: “We want basic human rights to live with dignity and respect so we can enjoy life. With the right support, most of us are pretty good at it.”
In 2015, a Bill to remove current safeguards was soundly defeated in the House of Commons by 330 votes to 118. The Assisted Suicide (Scotland) Bill was also rejected by 82 votes to 36 in the Scottish Parliament during the same year.