British Survey: Disabled Opposes Legalizing Assisted Suicide

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   May 9, 2011   |   4:54PM   |   London, England

A new national survey in England finds disabled Britons are opposed to the national government legalizing the practice of assisted suicide, and one pro-life group is welcoming the results.

The survey, commissioned by disability group Scope, found 70% of disabled people are “concerned about pressure being placed on other disabled people to end their lives prematurely” “if there were a change in the law on assisted suicide.” The survey also found that most young adults share the concerns of older generations about the dangers of legalizing assisted suicide.

The survey found 77% of disabled people aged 18-24 and 71% of disabled people aged 25-34 expressed those concerns.

Anthony Ozimic, the communications manager for the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC), responded to the poll, saying, “We welcome this survey and take encouragement from its findings. Scope, which commissioned the survey, is not part of the pro-life movement and there is no suggestion of it being partisan.”

“The survey’s questions were worded fairly, unlike recent general public opinion polls which use the pro-euthanasia lobby’s euphemisms, such as ‘assisted dying’. Disabled people, including young adults, are increasingly alarmed by the celebrity-driven push for legalizing assisted suicide. Disabled people want help to live well and die naturally, not lethal injections or poison-pills,” he added.

This year, assisted suicide backers in England have been pressing again for legalization of the practice and, in January, they went further by trashing disabled people in the process.

In the British Medical Journal, Tony Delamothe wrote a column titled “One and a Half Truths About Assisted Dying,” in which he disparaged the disabled.

“Sixteen months ago I argued that the debate on assisted dying had been hijacked by disabled people who wanted to live and that it should be reclaimed for terminally ill people who wanted to die,” he said.

But American bioethicist Wesley J. Smith, in a blog post, called him on the carpet.

“Thanks to the spread of suicide tourism, the UK is going through another in a series of pushes to legalize assisted suicide.  As with the last time, when a bill was introduced in the House of Lords, a commission is studying the issue.  And advocates are pretending that their goal is what it clearly is not,’ he writes.

Smith says the pro-assisted suicide activism in the United Kingdom “has explicitly not been limited to the terminally ill” and writes the example of the bill in the Scottish Parliament to legalize the practice, saying MSP Margo MacDonald is referenced by Delamothe.

“Yet, it specifically would have permitted assisted suicide for people with non terminal disabilities,” he notes.