Well, it’s been defeated … for the moment. A proposal to legalise “assisted suicide” was raised in Parliament and, thanks largely to a splendidly forthright speech from Baroness Campbell, was voted down.
The proposed new law was raised as an amendment by Lord Falconer in the House of Lords. Recently there has been much publicity given in Britain to people whose grave disabilities have made them believe they no longer wish to live, and who have travelled to Switzerland with relatives to die in a scheme operated by an organisation created specifically for this purpose. It was inevitable that supporters of this idea would seek to legalise it in Britain too. Thank God, this attempt has failed.
Baroness Campbell has suffered since babyhood from a crippling disease, sometimes needing a ventilator to help her breathe. She cannot walk and is confined to a wheelchair. This has not stopped her having a distinguished career culminating in being appointed to the House of Lords. Her speech denouncing the notion of “assisted suicide” spoke passionately about the way in which it would put pressure on people who felt that their families found them a burden, and revealed the thoughts and feelings of one who knew only too well that she had more than once been deemed to have a life not worth enduring. This was a voice of truth and courage.
Earlier, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Archbishop of Westminster, and the Chief Rabbi had jointly written to the press with a similar and powerful message. They spoke in defence of human life and the rights of the gravely ill. This united witness provided a strong moral message. We can be grateful for it.
It will be necessary to be vigilant: supporters of euthanasia will renew the pressure and keep up an insistent campaign. For the moment, we can feel boosted by this victory for truth and goodness.