11 Sep, 15 | by Iain Brassington
Aaaaaaaand so the latest attempt to get assisted dying of some sort onto the statute books in the UK has bitten the dust. I can’t say I’m surprised. Watching the debate in the Commons – I didn’t watch it all, but I did watch a fair chunk of it – it was striking just how familiar the arguments produced by both sides were. It’s hard to shake the feeling that, just as is the case with the journals, the public debate on assisted dying has become a war of attrition: noone has much new to say, and in the absence of that, it’s simply a matter of building up the numbers (or grinding down the opposition). The Nos didn’t win today’s Parliamentary debate because of any dazzling insight; the Ayes didn’t lose it because their speakers were measurably less impressive than their opponents’. If the law does change in the UK, I’d wager that it’ll be because of demographic brute force rather than intellectual fireworks.
(Every now and again I hear a rumour of someone having come up with a new approach to assisted dying debates… but every now and again I hear all kinds of rumours. I live in hope/ fear: delete as applicable.)
Still, I think it’s worth spending a little time on one of the objections that’s been raised over the last couple of days to this Bill in particular; it’s an objection that was raised by Canon Peter Holliday, the Chief Executive of a hospice in Lichfield:
In an interview with the Church of England, Canon Holliday said: “If there is no possibility within the final legislation for hospices to opt out of being a part of what is effectively assisted suicide, then there is nervousness about where our funding might be found in the future. Would the public continue to support us and indeed would the NHS continue to give us grants under contract?”
Canon Holliday said the Assisted Dying Bill also contains no opt out for organisations opposed to assisted suicide in spite of high levels of opposition to a change in the law amongst palliative care doctors. Where hospices did permit assisted suicide the potential frictions amongst staff could be ‘enormous’ with possible difficulties in recruiting doctors willing to participate, he said.
“The National Health Service requires us, in our contracts, to comply with the requirements of the NHS. Now if the NHS is going to be required to offer assisted dying there is of course the possibility that it would require us or an organisation contracting with the NHS also to offer assisted dying. If we as an organisation were able, and at the moment under the terms of the bill there is no indication we would be able, but if we were able to say that assisted dying was not something that would happen on our premises, would that prejudice our funding from the NHS ?”
Is this worry well-founded? more…