Davies calls for new right-to-die laws

Date published: 14 June 2011

Rochdale Euro-MP Chris Davies has called for medical assistance to help people end their life to be legalised.

The Lib-Dem says the failure of politicians to allow people to seek medical help to die amounts to “cruelty and barbarism.”

His comments come after best-selling fantasy author Sir Terry Pratchett, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2008, used a TV documentary to highlight procedures at the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland.

Last night’s BBC2 programme, Terry Pratchett: Choosing To Die, showed him witnessing an assisted death.

Mr Davies argues that it is wrong that British citizens suffering unendurably and with no hope of recovery should have to travel to Switzerland to die at a time of their own choosing.

The Euro-MP, who has made a study of procedures in Belgium and the Netherlands where they are lawful, says that less than 2 per cent of people who die in those countries seek help to do so. Almost all do so at home, with their family around them.

But he argues that the availability of such assistance gives comfort and relief to many more people who are fearful of a death without dignity. Mr Davies said: “This is a matter of human rights. While palliative care will always be the choice for the great majority facing an otherwise painful death people for whom life has become intolerable should not be forced to live against their will.

“The Government should find the courage to introduce legislation on the issue. While I accept that MPs should have a free vote it is unacceptable that people in appalling circumstances should have to travel to Switzerland to have their wishes respected.”

Campaigners hit out at BBC show
Campaigners have accused the BBC of helping to promote assisted suicide.

But the broadcaster says the programme gives viewers the chance to make up their own minds.

A Dignity in Dying spokeswoman, who has described the documentary as “deeply moving and at times difficult to watch,” said she believed the publicity before the programme had helped.

“People who did not want to watch it did not have to watch and were not confronted with something they did not want to see,” she said.

She added: “It certainly shows that Dignitas is not an ideal option for people and we would rather people had the choice of dying at home at a time and in a manner of their choosing.”

But Alistair Thompson of the Care Not Killing Alliance pressure group, said: “This is assisted suicide propaganda loosely dressed up as a documentary.”

Mr Thompson accused the BBC of repeatedly giving voice to pro–euthanasia views and claimed this is the fifth BBC programme in three years presented by a pro–euthanasia campaigner or sympathiser.

He said: “The evidence is that the more you portray this, the more suicides you will have.”

The BBC has denied it had any bias in the public debate over the issue.

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