Watching Questiontime two years ago, it was reassuring to hear all the representatives from all the political parties, including Robin Cook for the Government, state their steadfast opposition to any law allowing euthanasia. What united all the politicians was not only a belief in what Robin Cook called "the first duty of the Government to protect the lives of its citizens" (a line incidentally from the beginning of the ProLife Alliance election manifesto), but the knowledge that, as Cook put it, it would be absolutely impossible to legislate to allow euthanasia and protect vulnerable ill or old people from non-voluntary euthanasia.
The impossibility of legislating to allow euthanasia was also responsible for the European Court of Human Rights unanimous ruling by seven Strasbourg judges that it would be practically impossible to withhold prosecution in the case of assisted suicide by a relative, since as Bruno Quintavalle, a barrister with the ProLife Alliance pointed out "the implications of her petition to allow her husband to kill her with state immunity did have colossal repercussions which go far beyond her personal tragedy." Evidence presented by Professor John Keown of thousands of cases of non-voluntary euthanasia in the Netherlands, have also persuaded supporters of euthanasia such as the previous editor of the Journal of Medical Ethics for twenty years, Raanan Gillon, to oppose euthanasia.
The arguments against euthanasia are considerable, including the fact that very few terminally ill patients request it, many change their minds, and prominent disability rights activists speak against it, including Jane Campbell, commissioner at the Disability Rights Commission, Chair of the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE), co-founder and directer the National Centre for Independent Living (NCIL) and previously chair of the British Council of Disabled People (BCODP). You only have to read the list of Jane Campbell's achievements, never mind hear her speak passionately about her narrow escape from a Do Not Resuscitate order, to see that the way forward is helping disabled and terminally ill people to live, not to help them die.
In October 2004, the ProLife Alliance published opinion polling showing that 4 out of 5 MPs Against Voluntary Euthanasia. But recently pressure has been mounting to allow euthanasia, through living wills contained in the recently passed Mental Capacity Bill, and with more scare stories. On 1st July 2005, the Daily Mail ran a story called “Doctors: We no longer oppose mercy killing” which stated that Diane Pretty “developed breathing difficulties and gradually choked to death over more than a week.”
In fact the reality was very different for Diane Pretty:
"Dr Ryszard Bietzk, the head of medical services at the Pasque Hospice, Luton, where Mrs Pretty was cared for, said her death was "perfectly normal, natural and peaceful". He added: "There was no reason for police to be involved or notified. Diane was admitted to the hospice last Friday for a pre-arranged admission. Over recent weeks her condition had deteriorated and she continued to deteriorate following her admission until she died peacefully yesterday afternoon."