Sir Patrick Stewart has said it is an “absolute disgrace” that assisted suicide is not legal in Britain.
Sir Patrick is a patron of pro-assisted suicide group Dignity in Dying, formerly known as the Voluntary Euthanasia Society.
Last year, a Bill to legalise assisted suicide was soundly defeated in the House of Commons.
Right to suicide
The actor, best-known for his role in Star Trek: The Next Generation, was speaking as California – his adopted home – implemented legislation to allow the practice.
He said: “In California, millions of people now have the ability to die with dignity in the event of terminal illness. It is an absolute disgrace that, as a Briton, I am denied this right at home.”
California has just finished implementing legislation to allow terminally-ill people to obtain life-ending drugs from their doctor.
The legislation was approved on 11 September last year – the same day as MPs in the UK voted by a huge margin to reject a similar law coming in.
Following a lengthy debate, MPs voted 330 to 118 against Rob Marris’ Private Members’ Bill.
The result in the Commons came following pressure from disabled rights groups, the medical profession, a number of charities and religious leaders.
Serious concerns had been raised that legalising assisted suicide would pressurise the sick, elderly and vulnerable into ending their lives for fear of being a burden.
This week, it emerged that members of the British Medical Association (BMA) are still lobbying for doctors to support assisted suicide.
But an editiorial in The Telegraph stressed that the BMA should continue to oppose the practice:
“Some bad ideas are remarkably persistent, defying both evidence and the clear will of the electorate to resurface time and again. Assisted dying is one of them.”
Loss of trust
“Poll after poll shows that the British public trusts doctors, a trust founded on the confidence that physicians will do their utmost to protect and heal.
“Could that relationship remain unchanged if doctors had formal legal power to bring about our deaths? Doctors should continue to oppose assisted suicide, and focus on improving care for the dying.”