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Assisted dying: "Stop the scaremongering" says MEP expert

Date published: 05 January 2012

Claims that assisted dying legislation would put the lives of thousands of disabled and vulnerable people at risk have been dismissed as “scaremongering nonsense with no basis in fact” by an MEP expert.

A report by the independent commission on assisted dying, chaired by Lord Falconer, will call for doctors to be allowed to respect their patients’ wishes if proper procedures are followed.

But its proposals have already been attacked by groups such as Care Not Killing. They claim that the changes will create a slippery slope leading to the premature deaths of people who feel they are a burden on others.

Liberal Democrat MEP Chris Davies has written about assisted dying in Switzerland and has made a special study of practices in Belgium and the Netherlands where euthanasia has been legal for more than a decade.

He said: “The law in Belgium and the Netherlands incorporates safeguards to prevent abuse. It commands overwhelming public support and the fears of those who criticised the original proposals have been proven completely unfounded.

“Less than two per cent of all deaths in the Netherlands are attributable to euthanasia, and they most commonly involve cancer patients living at home and in the very last days of their natural lives.”

Davies claims that it would be possible for lawmakers here to go further than in Belgium and the Netherlands, and to include as many as 20 different safeguards in assisted dying legislation.

He said: “Patients who seeks medical assistance to die must be suffering unendurably with no hope of recovery. The hard question for lawmakers is to decide whether they must also be terminally ill, knowing that such a requirement would prevent some people in a state of almost complete paralysis from being able to escape lives that to them are intolerable.”

The MEP claims that in Britain the issue has been hijacked by religious groups who have succeeded in preventing change through dogmatic convictions.

He said: “Palliative care may be good but there will always be some people in distressing circumstances who seek a different option. To deny them the right to exercise their free will is cruel not kind.”