British Pro-Life Groups Doubtful Euthanasia Bill Will be Fixed

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Dec 15, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

British Pro-Life Groups Doubtful Euthanasia Bill Will be Fixed Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
December 15, 2004

London, England ( — British pro-life groups are concerned that a promise by governmental officials to fix a euthanasia bill is "smoke and mirrors" and that the House of Lords will fail to improve legislation allowing doctors to withhold lifesaving medical treatment from terminally ill patients who request it.

The British parliament debated the bill and approved it 354-188 after a highly contentious debate and a promise by government official David Lammy to a leading Catholic Church representative saying the bill would be amended in the House of Lords to ensure that doctors could not end the life of a patient.

However, pro-life groups say that’s an empty promise.

The Society for the Protection of Unborn Child calls the promise "smoke and mirrors."

Paul Tully, SPUC’s general secretary, said the proposed wording refers to the "motive" to kill rather than the intention.

"What matters in the eyes of the law is the intention to kill — motive is simply what moved the person to kill, which might be a misguided notion of compassion," Tully said.

Tully said his group urges the House of Lords to vote the bill down unless it is stripped of its pro-euthanasia provisions.

Lammy promised that the government of Prime Minister Tony Blair did not want the bill to "authorize any decision where the motive is to kill, as opposed to relieving or preventing suffering."

But, the pro-life group LIFE wants to know why Lammy didn’t make such a promise months ago when the talk of the legislation first surfaced.

"Why this last-minute statement — given to the Catholic archbishop of Cardiff and made public during yesterday’s debate," the group asked in a statement.

"’And if this assurance is sincere why was the Bill so drafted as to allow deliberate killing by omission (i.e., denial of food and fluids to patients) — despite the repeated complaints that it opened the backdoor to euthanasia," LIFE’s Wednesday statement read.

LIFE said the bill, if not changed, would be the first step to direct euthanasia.

The Catholic Bishops’ of England and Wales also oppose the bill unless it is altered to stop euthanasia by omission.

Archbishop of Cardiff Peter Smith says he welcomes the proposed amendment on the House of Lords side but says he still has reservations about the bill.

"But we still have serious reservations that there remains a real danger of the Bill permitting proxy decision makers to act with a purpose of deliberately bringing about a person’s death by refusing treatment in circumstances when otherwise the life of that person could and should be properly sustained," he said in a statement.

"Among amendments which are being proposed, at least two would close the gap and we strongly urge the Government to accept them and ensure that there would then be no danger of allowing, even unintentionally, euthanasia by omission," he added.

Former Conservative Leader Iain Duncan Smith put forward an amendment to prevent doctors from causing a patient’s death, but it was defeated on a 297 to 203 vote.