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

A Peer has called for legislators to listen to the vulnerable amid the latest attempts to make assisted suicide legal in the UK.

Lord McColl, writing in The Times, hit out at the “growing obsession with death as a solution”, which he said “denies hope and care to those who are fighting to live”.

He said the recent launch of a suicide pod in Switzerland, which allows a patient to suffocate themselves to death by oxygen deprivation, serves to glamorise euthanasia and assisted suicide, and “disengages” people from the idea that they can have a dignified end of life through high-quality palliative care.

Procuring premature death

Baroness Meacher’s assisted suicide Bill is currently being considered by the House of Lords. In Scotland, Liam McArthur MSP is also pressing ahead with his plan to legalise assisted suicide.

Lord McColl said: “Suggesting medically-assisted suicide as complementary to a compassionate society is a dangerous masquerade and one that threatens to undermine the fundamental ethic at our nation’s core.

Suggesting medically-assisted suicide as complementary to a compassionate society is a dangerous masquerade

“The majority of doctors, society’s preservers of life, want no part in the procurement of premature death. Our medical workforce is already severely overstretched and exhausted trying to save lives and prevent suicides.”

Normalises suicide

He explained that when assisted suicide is legalised, it does not become one choice among many, but increasingly becomes the default position, saying: “Canada has seen clinicians diverted away into assessing eligibility for lethal drugs, leaving some patients with even less care and fewer options in accessing what they need to live as they want.

1,371 people have been euthanised [in Canada] on the grounds of loneliness

“So far, 1,371 people have been euthanised there on the grounds of loneliness. What is needed for better deaths is to improve the involvement of health and social care professionals, not to remove their support altogether.”

He added that legalisation of assisted suicide promotes a culture of ending life, highlighting that in Oregon, where the practice has been legal since 1997, the rate of non-assisted suicides is “among the highest in the US and rising”.

“Orientating culture to a normalisation of suicide jars fundamentally with improving suicide prevention efforts and presents suicide as a desirable alternative.”

Inheritance murder

Lord McColl also revealed that he and his fellow peers had been sent a letter by the family of the victim of an inheritance murder ahead of the most recent debate on the Assisted Dying Bill.

Author Peter Farquhar had been seduced by Ben Field, who then slowly poisoned him and received a sizeable inheritance when Peter died. The victim’s siblings, Ian and Sue told peers that a similar fraud had taken place in Oregon, but that because assisted suicide had been used rather than poison, a murder prosecution was impossible.

Ian and Sue “believe assisted suicide would offer the greedy and unscrupulous the perfect way to kill the vulnerable with impunity”.

The peer concluded: “We have a fundamental responsibility to uphold a medical ethic which makes, promotes, affirms and protects the value of human life, whatever the challenges. If society really wants to debate assisted suicide it must listen to the testimonies and fears of the many vulnerable people who are terrified by these proposals, and heed their judgement.”


In October, over sixty members of the House of Lords spoke out against Baroness Meacher’s Assisted Dying Bill, which seeks to enable those deemed to have less than six months to live to get help to kill themselves.

As expected, her Bill will now move to the Committee Stage, but it 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.

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:


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

Labour Peer: ‘Even well-meaning assisted suicide activists are still wrong’

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

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