For my part I do not support the bill, something I have come under a lot of attack for. Unfortunately these attacks have but strengthened my reasons, in particular as I am condemned as having no compassion for people such as Tony Nicklinson.
I have a lot of arguments but for the purposes of this post I am going to concentrate on a single aspect: the "slippery slope". As a disabled person this is of particular concern to me.
I have been told very bluntly by strangers in the street "If I were you I'd kill myself". Acquaintances have said that they don't know how I live the way I do and others that they couldn't live if they were "like me".
So it isn't a stretch of the imagination to see that a newly disabled person could easily want to die. It takes time to adjust. But worryingly they would not receive the support they require from many people around them as even subconsciously they would be busy telling them that in their position they'd also rather die. It is a subtle form of pressure.
Of course people reading this are busy thinking "But the bill doesn't apply to disabled people".
Well no, it doesn't.
But the problem is that the "slippery slope" has already started.
Who are the people fronting the argument for assisted dying?
Who are the examples who have convinced people like Lord Carey to change their minds?
Are they terminally ill people who the bill will help?
Well... no. They are disabled people.
We have people like Tony Nicklinson. Or Terry Pratchett.
If people are campaigning and voting on the basis of these examples then in their minds they are already applying assisted dying to other people outside the law: specifically, disabled people.
I wonder what will happen if the bill becomes law but the MPs, Lords and general public then realise that it does not apply to the cases they thought it did.
What will happen when the next Tony Nicklinson comes along and cannot avail himself of the newly passed Assisted Dying Law?
Finally Dignity in Dying repeatedly says this is not about disability but just terminal illness.
So I leave you with the foreword on their website from their patron Professor Antony Grayling:
I believe that decisions about the timing and manner of death belong to the individual as a human right. This is especially relevant in cases of terminal illness, painful or undignified unrelievable illness, exhausting old age, and other circumstances where an individual might wish to make the autonomous decision to end his or her life. I further believe that it is wrong to withhold medical methods of terminating life painlessly and swiftly when an individual requests them on the basis of a rational and clear-minded sustained wish to end his or her life.As long as disabled people are used to front the argument for Assisted Dying, as long as Dignity in Dying includes old age, chronic illness and "other circumstances" as valid reasons, I will worry about the "slippery slope" and oppose the bill.
EDIT: The bill was not passed. But what is most crucial to my points here are the subsequent remarks made by Lord Falconer. He admitted that the reason for the bill was not the relief of unbearable pain for terminally ill patients, but the indignity of having to rely on other people. In other words the difficulties of being newly disabled.
The fear of relying on other people is hugely exaggerated in non disabled people and is what leads to the comments like "if I were you I'd kill myself". Most disabled people do adapt with the appropriate support. This is what should be concentrated on, just as much and importantly as pain relief, not helping people to die instead.
Lord Falconer's comments are below:
The work that has been done in relation to this shows generally it is not the pain, it is not the fact that you can’t relieve pain – that can be dealt with – it is the sense of people losing their independence and being reliant on other people, and there’s a small number of people who whatever you do would find that an intolerable position to be in.Dignity in Dying finally admitted on the politics show that they agreed with his remarks, the first time that they stopped hiding behind the pretence that their agenda was purely about the relief of physical end of life suffering.