IN YET another plug for ‘assisted dying’, TV celebrity Prue Leith’s campaign for a change in the law continues with a Channel 4 programme on the subject.
Prue and Danny’s Death Road Trip, to be screened this week, shows the Great British Bake Off judge touring Canada and the US to visit jurisdictions where it has been legalised. She will be with her son, Conservative MP Danny Kruger, who is opposed to the idea.
Dame Prue, 82, who is a patron of Dignity in Dying, bases her argument on the experience of her late brother, who had bone cancer. She says he had ‘the most horrible death, it went on for weeks and he was begging to be allowed to die, and couldn’t he have some more morphine. He was just in incredible pain,’ adding that ‘she would want the choice to end her life if she faced weeks or months of misery’.
Hopefully, on her ‘death road trip’, someone will ask Dame Prue why she was unable to help her late brother receive better palliative care, which he clearly needed, although in this country it is not available for all who need it, and if she gets her way, there is no reason to believe that it ever will be, simply because euthanasia saves money.
It has been estimated that in 2021, there were over 10,000 euthanasia deaths in Canada, and since the Medical Aid in Dying (‘MAiD’) law passed in 2015, moves have been made to widen the scope of to include those not terminally ill, children and the mentally ill.
In Canada, they now offer the poor and the disabled ‘help to die’ instead of help to live. One Canadian professor of social work observed that isn’t a slippery slope, it is ‘Mount Everest in a snowstorm’. According to those monitoring developments in Canada, every day in 2021, more than 27 people died at the hands of their physicians or nurses. Canada euthanises more people than any other country in the world. After legalisation, the number of assisted suicides/euthanasia increased tenfold in six years, and there is no watchdog to warn about the situation. Now, the Quebec College of Physicians is asking Parliament to expand euthanasia to babies less than a year old.
If opinion polls are correct that two-thirds of people in our own country support ‘assisted dying’, that is surely because they never hear about Canada. Even there, far from being the result of a grass roots campaign, the Canadian law was mainly the creation of Dying with Dignity Canada (DWDC). According to Alex Schadenberg, executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, DWDC marketed the public and lobbying campaign for euthanasia in a highly effective campaign largely using stories of individuals demanding to die. The organisation packed parliamentary committees with their supporters, and ‘would arrange for a chosen cadre of individuals to testify in front of the committee; they only needed one activist to balance out the concerns of disability groups, despite the latter’s near-unanimity in opposition to MAiD.’
Nonetheless, Dame Prue says the UK situation, in which it is illegal to help people commit suicide, is unfair – ‘nobody’s forcing anybody to take it, it’s an option. What we’re asking if for people to have the choice.’
Admittedly, the Nazis were never magnanimous enough to offer death as a choice, but even if their euthanasia programme had never happened, once societies legalise the idea that death is the solution to suffering, why not offer it to everyone? Vulnerable people will find it a lot easier to request state-sanctioned killing than state-provided care. Dame Prue is in the fortunate position of being able to afford the best of care, but as one Canadian physician remarked, disability groups there believe ‘that the people driving this [campaign for assisted death] are often white, worried, wealthy individuals who want control over their own life and death. One of my fellow palliative care specialists calls this “privileged autonomy”.’
Thus does the campaign for ‘terminally ill people dying in agony to be given choice’ morph into demands for ‘the right to die’ – not only for the sake of the individual involved, but their family and friends. It isn’t ‘choice’ that is the issue when people are poor and vulnerable, it is power, and that is the one thing that the sick, the elderly and the disabled do not have. Legalising assisted suicide would only disempower them further, narrowing their ‘choice’ to just one, death. The present law is the best protection for the weak and powerless; at our peril do we dismantle it, even at the behest of celebrities cooking up poisonous plans for our consumption. However they try to dress it up, this is a lethal dish best consigned to the bin.