Last November I reported on the overwhelming
defeat in the Scottish Parliament of Margo Macdonald’s End of Life
Assistance (Scotland) Bill by the margin of 85 to 16.
persuaded that any weakening of the law to allow euthanasia or assisted
suicide would put vulnerable people under pressure to end their lives.
was not an isolated incident. In January 2010, an ‘Oregon Style’
assisted suicide bill was defeated in the US state of New Hampshire by a
vote of 242 to 113.
On 23 April the Canadian parliament
Bill C-384, a bill that would have legalized euthanasia and
assisted suicide by a vote of 228 to 59.
In November a bill that
would have legalized euthanasia in
Australia was defeated by a vote of 12 to 9.
The pace of
rejection of similar bills has continued into 2011.
January, in a preliminary reading, the Knesset (Israeli House of
a law proposal that would have allowed terminally ill patients to
self-administer drugs that would cause them to die.
Oron (Meretz), who initiated the law titled ‘Death by Prescription,’
proposed that a dying patient who is able and of legal age should
receive, upon request, a prescription for a lethal dose of a sedative.
Only 16 MKs voted for the law, while 48 voted against it.
January the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR)
that while there is a ‘human right’ to suicide, the state has no
obligation to provide citizens with the means to commit suicide. The
court found Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights,
guaranteeing the right to life, particularly persuasive.
Court notes that the vast majority of member States place more weight on
the protection of an individual’s life than on the right to end one’s
life and concludes that the States have a broad margin of appreciation
in that respect,’ explained Grégor Puppinck, the director of the
European Center for Law and Justice in a press release about the
The court therefore concluded that states have no
direct responsibility to help their citizens commit suicide by providing
lethal drugs and also ruled that respect for the right to life compels
the state to prevent a person from committing suicide if such a decision
is not taken freely and with full knowledge
And on 25 January
the French Senate
proposals to legalise assisted suicide and euthanasia, by 170 votes
to 142. Francois Fillon, the French prime minister, had spoken out
strongly against the proposals.
The pace of rejection of such
legislation is exceeded only by the frenetic rate at which
pro-euthanasia groups are desperately bringing forward new bills.
it’s not working because parliamentarians and judges who consider the
matter carefully are not being fooled by emotive arguments, hard cases
and misinformed public opinion.
In a democratic society there are
limits to human autonomy. The law is there primarily to protect
vulnerable people and public safety will always trump the demands of
determined individuals backed by pressure groups who want to undermine
As Lord Falconer’s
Commission on Assisted Dying moves into its third month trying to
craft a justification for changing the law in the UK one hopes that
British parliamentarians are reading their newspapers and learning from
the wisdom of jurisdictions all around the world.
Dr Peter Saunders is a former general surgeon and CEO of Christian Medical Fellowship,
a UK-based organisation with 4,500 UK doctors and 1,000 medical students as
members. This article has been cross-posted from his blog, Christian Medical Comment.