‘The doctors said it was time to die’

“You wouldn’t want to be resuscitated,” doctors once told Baroness Campbell, the disabled Peer who helped oppose a plan to weaken the law on assisted suicide this week.

During the debate, Baroness Campbell of Surbiton was joined by other Peers in warning of the dangers such a change would pose to vulnerable people.

In today’s Daily Mail Lady Campbell, who was born with the wasting disease spinal muscular atrophy, tells of her “terrifying experience” lying in a hospital bed as doctors decided her life wasn’t worth living.

In 2002 she was rushed to hospital with a sudden chest infection.

She writes: “The consultants thought they knew enough. They could see that I was seriously disabled. I can’t breathe or eat or use the bathroom without assistance.

“In their eyes, I was an obviously hopeless case. Though proper treatment would give me a fighting chance of survival, they couldn’t see past my disability.”

“‘You wouldn’t want to be resuscitated,’ they said, causing me to even doubt myself. Why were they saying this? What did they know that I didn’t? It could have been a death sentence, one that I was too ill to resist.”

Eventually it was her husband who “came to the rescue” by digging out an old photograph of Lady Campbell receiving an honorary university degree.

“It was enough to persuade the medical powers-that-be that my life had some purpose and meaning after all”, she said.

The Baroness said: “Even though I am still here seven years later to tell the tale, the wider battle rages more fiercely than ever.”

Lady Campbell believes that despite defeating assisted suicide in the House of Lords earlier this week, “the issue hasn’t gone away”.

“The ‘reformers’ already have a considerable degree of support in both Houses of Parliament and across all parties”, she warns.

“They will keep on trying. And the consequences if they ever succeed are profoundly disturbing.”

She added: “A change in the law based on the assumption that some lives are more valuable and worthwhile than others would alter the mindset of the medical and social care professions, persuading more and more people that actually the prospect of an ‘easy’ way out is what people such as me really want.”

“If ever it were to succeed, those who are ill or elderly might well come to believe that that they are simply a burden on their families or the state, especially in these times of huge public debt.

“Some might consider it better they were dead instead of being forced to fight for the support they need to go on living with dignity.

“It would have been made very clear to them, after all, that society would find it cheaper and simpler if they were no longer around.”

Lady Campbell warns: “A change in the law would not only be the first step towards legalising euthanasia, but would make thousands of disabled people fearful for their own safety.”

In her final message to the so-called ‘reformers’ she said: “Those of us who are disabled or ill are as fully human as any other citizen. We very often still have a remarkable contribution to make.”

Related Resources