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10 January 2012

Falconer report on assisted dying criticised

Falconer report on assisted dying criticised

The Falconer report on euthanasia has been dismissed as biased and flawed by Care Not Killing. The report, published last week by the Commission on Assisted Dying, and funded by campaigners seeking a change in the law, said that the current system was inadequate. It said that within strict guidelines it was possible to allow assisted dying.

The report and the commission that produced it has come under sustained criticism for being designed to come out with conclusions that would propose altering the law and permitting assisted dying.

The Evangelical Alliance is part of the Care Not Killing alliance who led the response to the report. Dr Peter Saunders, Campaign Director of Care Not Killing, said: "This investigation was unnecessary, biased and lacking in transparency and its report is seriously flawed. It is being spun as a comprehensive, objective and independent review into this complicated issue. It is anything but.

"This private commission was sponsored by Dignity in Dying, formerly the Voluntary Euthanasia Society, and financed by one of their patrons, with panel members handpicked by Lord Falconer, a leading advocate of changing the law. Nine of its 11 members were known backers of assisted suicide with a strong ideological vested interest in this as the outcome. Those with a differing view including representatives from the major disability rights organisations and doctors groups were not invited to join the Commission. The overt bias in the structure of the commission is why over 40 organisations including the British Medical Association boycotted the inquiry."

The Commission recommended allowing assisted suicide if a person is over 18, terminally ill and judged as having less than 12 months to live, and the choice is voluntary and they are not mentally impaired. Before it is allowed the person would require the assessment of two doctors.

Dr Saunders went on to say: "What the commission is proposing is a less safe version of the highly controversial Oregon law, which sees the terminally ill offered drugs to kill themselves, but not expensive life saving and life extending drugs. It's so-called 'proposed safeguards' are paper-thin and have already been rejected three times in the last six years by British Parliaments. These recommendations if implemented will place vulnerable people under increased pressure to end their lives so as not to be a burden on others. This pressure can be especially intense at a time of economic recession when families and the health service are already feeling the pinch. The so-called right to die can so easily become the duty to die.

"The current law exists to protect those who are sick, elderly, depressed, or disabled from feeling obliged to end their lives. The present law protects those who have no voice against exploitation and coercion, acts a as a powerful deterrent to would-be abusers and gives discretion to judges to temper justice with mercy in hard cases. The current law does not need changing."

The Government responded to the report by reiterating that it had no plans to reform the law in this area, and any decision would be a matter for Parliament and the individual conscience of MPs.