Assisted suicide a backward step

ONE can only feel for Annemarie Field and her mother (Out in the Field, Friday, February 25).

There is little to compare with the distress of seeing a loved one suffer.

The natural longings to want to help them end it all can be overwhelming.

However, the solution is not to permit assisted suicide.

I believe that would be a truly backward step, not an advance.

It is well said that hard cases make bad law. These are hard cases, which we should all address with great compassion.

But treating people as we would animals is not the answer.

The rights of the individual to exercise personal choice must be balanced with the broader impact that this choice will have on society.

There is the danger that, should the right to die become normalised, the great advances made in palliative care in recent years will begin to unravel as precipitated death will become the cheaper, easier, option.

Once the legislative line is crossed to permit assisted suicide for people experiencing unbearable suffering, it will become ever harder to resist the pressure to allow assisted suicide in other cases, whatever safeguards are put in place.

It is then a short step from assisted suicide to full euthanasia.

Evidence from Holland and Oregon, where euthanasia is permitted, is disturbing. The ‘right to die’ can in time become a ‘duty to die’.

Some argue that, with proper safeguards, legally assisted suicide would not become the ‘thin end of the wedge’.

Strong and consistent evidence shows that most people wanting to end their lives, even when in severe physical distress, are experiencing clinical depression. This is what should be addressed.

How can we as a society build in far better support and therapy for those who experience the distress of pain in their last days and their families?

The horrors of the eugenics movement are still within the living memory of some.

While the principle of the ‘sanctity of human life’ may seem to be a throwback to an old, outdated morality, we embark on dangerous and uncharted waters if we unhitch our rope from its tried and tested norms.

Martyn Relf

Chair of Churches

Together for Eastbourne

Coastguard Square