As the UK Parliament again prepares to debate an assisted suicide law, media stories are thick with claims and counter-claims about the effect of such a law — based on experience in those countries where it is legal.
The problem is that when campaigners appeal to evidence, they often do so selectively or in broad terms, and it is not always easy to check their sources. This is a debate where emotion and hyperbole are commonplace.
Just what are the lessons from other countries? The Anscombe Bioethics Centre has produced a guide to the evidence on assisted suicide and euthanasia that links directly to official data from the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland, and the states of Oregon and Washington.
The Guide — on the web here, or as a PDF here — will help people assess the potential impact of proposed legislation such as the Assisted Dying (No. 2) Bill sponsored by Rob Marris MP which is due to be debated on 11 September 2015. The Bill would “enable competent adults who are terminally ill to choose to be provided with medically supervised assistance to end their own life”.
Anscombe’s director, Professor David Albert Jones, shows that legalizing physician assisted suicide would not address the needs of the dying but would threaten people with disabilities and those who are suicidal. Permitting healthcare professionals to ‘encourage or assist’ suicide would undermine key principles of law, medical ethics and palliative care.
The Centre has also produced a handy two-page briefing, ‘Eight Reasons not to legalize Physician Assisted Suicide’ (PDF here).