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Right to die': the right to end all rights

Right to die': the right to end all rights

Ann Wills says that former medical director of Public Health England, Prof Paul Cosford, now backs ‘assisted dying after developing incurable lung cancer’, describing ‘the current law as “inhumane”’; he is calling on ‘the Government to understand why “rational, law-abiding people sometimes feel compelled to travel to Switzerland”’ after ‘some MPs suggested the law could be changed within four years’. She argues: ‘Surely in these days of freedom of choice, terminally ill people should have the right to choose a medically assisted death, just as pregnant women can choose a natural birth or a pain-free epidural. Most people don’t want their loved one to see them suffering, because they want them to have happier memories’ (Letters, Telegraph, October 5, 2020).

However, choosing a natural birth or an epidural – decisions intrinsically connected with bringing new life into the world - can hardly be equated with ‘assisted dying’ which is, by its very nature, specifically aimed at the weaker members of society – the old, the ill, the disabled, the despairing. In jurisdictions where assisted suicide has been legalised there are not only cases of coercion, but also of far more subtle ‘self-coercion’ involving those who feel they are a burden on others. One does not need to be Miss Marple to recognise murder dressed up as suicide, and the rising toll of assisted suicides in such places is a terrible commentary on how easily societies can slide down the slippery slope of convenience dressed up as compassion.  


We already have assisted dying – palliative care, which this country pioneered; it does not help to guilt-trip people into deciding that they would rather kill themselves than for their loved-ones to ‘see them suffering’. Watching them being properly cared for and made comfortable leaves many more comforting memories than watching them being killed.

Of course, killing the sick is always cheaper than caring for them, and thanks to the Coronavirus NHS waiting lists are getting longer.

One would hope the pandemic would focus minds on saving life, but some still want the right to choose when they die; however, in the end we are all suffering from an incurable disease – life. Death is the end of all choices, and the right to die is simply the right to end all rights. Even worse, however, allowing some people to choose the ‘right to die’ would take away many other people’s right to life.