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Tories members support a right-to-die in principle but fear the practical consequences

ConservativeHome found considerable support for the principle of ending one's own life in our latest monthly survey but also strong concerns about the vulnerability of the very old, very sick and very disabled should a legal right-to-die become enacted. There was strong support for Parliament, rather than the courts, deciding British law on this issue:


Tory MPs are already organising in the Commons to resist attempts by Labour MPs' to enact a right-to-die before they are likely to lose their majority next year.  The Daily Mail reported attempts by Nadine Dorries to fight any attempt to introduce "creeping euthanasia".  Edward Leigh MP told the newspaper that existing law is about protecting vulnerable people from any suggestion by greedy relatives or a cash-strapped state that they have a 'duty-to-die':

"Assisted dying has been discussed on numerous occasions in Parliament, and every time attempts to change the current law have been rejected. The law exists to protect those who would be taken advantage of: the terminally ill, the elderly, the disabled and those who worry that their care would be a burden on their family."

Melanchthon has been fighting a battle over at CentreRight against any right-to-die laws.  His posts have produced strong responses but there was more agreement with his latest argument that society should do all it could to discourage people from ever wanting to exercise a right-to-die.  In an imperfect analogy with stopping suicide he wrote:

"If you saw a girl running towards a cliff edge whom you believed intended to throw herself over, you would feel both a moral and a civic duty to attempt to prevent her.  You might call out.  If you were large and strong enough you might rugby tackle and subdue her (provided that such physical intervention did not place you at material danger of being dragged over the cliff with her).  This civic duty is considered as justifying state intervention.  If you were a doctor you might sedate her.  If you were a mental health nurse you might place her in restraints. We do not consider that such a girl has a human right to die, which we violate with rugby tackles, our drugs and our restraints.  On the contrary, we believe that we have a duty to prevent her death if we can."

My own view is that we need to do everything we can to communicate to very vulnerable people that we want them to live and want to care for them.  The hospice movement and advances in palliative care mean that dying is far from the horrible process that many people fear.  I was encouraged by the finding that 80% of Conservative members support more investment in palliative medicine.

But one quotation from Dutch cardiologist Richard Fenigsen captures it all for me:

"The fundamental question about euthanasia: Whether it is a libertarian movement for human freedom and the right of choice, or an aggressive drive to exterminate the weak, the old, and the different, this question can now be answered. It is both."

I think it impossible for a society to have a legal right-to-die without it also being abused by relatives and the state.  The current state of law is messy and, in many ways, painful but people are not being thrown into jail for ending the life of a loved one. There is still a sense that ending vulnerable life is a dangerous and suspicious thing to do.  That has to stay true.  I'd rather live and die in that society than in a society where the state assumes an authority to oversee the death of the sick, the old and the disabled.  I hate to think where that will take us. 

Tim Montgomerie

> In a November 2007 ConHome survey of Tory candidates we found that 41% (28 candidates) were supportive of legislation that would "make it easier for sick or disabled people to exercise a 'right-to-die'".  44% (30 candidates) opposed such legislation.


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