The lobby group Dignity in Dying (formerly the Voluntary Euthanasia Society) has been very quiet lately but it appears it is now attempting to build momentum for its next attempt to change the law to allow so-called ‘assisted dying’ (a euphemism for euthanasia and assisted suicide).
This will not be an easy task. Three attempts to change the law in Britain over the last six years have been singularly unsuccessful resulting in defeats of 148-100 (Joffe Bill), 194-141 (Falconer amendment) and 85-16 (MacDonald Bill) in 2006, 2009 and 2010 respectively. In fact opposition is building all over the world with euthanasia bills being defeated in Canada, Australia, the US, Israel and France all in the last twelve months.
DID’s latest attempt to influence decision-makers has centred around a private consultation called the ‘Commission on Assisted Dying’ which it set up last November to consider ‘what system, if any, should exist to allow people to be helped to die and whether changes in the law should be introduced’.
The commission has said it will take oral and written ‘evidence’ throughout the year and produce a report in the autumn. DID’s hope is that the conclusions, when published, might influence Parliament.
The consultation has already, however, received a lot of bad press from critics who see it as unnecessary, unbalanced and lacking in transparency. In fact of the first eleven expert witnesses invited to give evidence six have declined to do so. One has called it a sham. As a result it is rapidly losing all credibility.
The commission, which was ‘suggested’ by DID is being chaired by Lord Falconer, an active proponent of legalising assisted suicide, and at least eight of its twelve members share his views. Furthermore it is being financed by Terry Pratchett, one of DID’s own trustees.
Now it appears that DID is lobbying its own membership to give ‘evidence’ to its own commission.
In a letter to supporters on 2 March, Policy Support Officer Anna Boehm, writes:
‘The Commission would like to hear your views and has devised a 15-part questionnaire which you can complete online or download from the Commission’s website…The Commission will also accept submissions in the form of letters, reports or videos – all of which should be submitted via the website or by email…Please send in your views as a supporter of assisted dying.’
Boehm is apparently concerned that opponents of a change in the law might somehow influence the outcome:
‘public consultations on the subject in the past have been grossly skewed by a very vocal minority who oppose any change to the law’.
I don’t think she need worry too much.
Judging by the response so far there has been very little interest.
Only 60 written submissions have been posted on the website in the first four months and most of them come from people who share her views.
Furthermore, the composition of the commission itself, and the fact that it is being financed, chaired and manned by members of her own group, will guarantee that it comes up with the conclusions she desires regardless of what evidence is put before it.
The real question is whether anyone will take any notice.
DID has failed to effect a change in the law to allow euthanasia and assisted suicide because it has failed to convince parliamentarians and decision-makers in the country’s major institutions that such a move would not endanger the lives of vulnerable people by putting them under pressure to end their lives.
These people will not change their opinion just because a pressure group proposes, funds, fronts and runs an inquiry and then encourages its own subscribers to tell it what it wants to hear.