Skip to content

An assisted dying law would better protect us all

Baroness Grey-Thompson wrote an opinion piece for The Times (Assisted Suicide: A Chilling Prospect for Disabled People, Monday 23rd September) in response to the news that Professor Stephen Hawking supports assisted dying for terminally ill adults.

In the article she attacked Lord Falconer’s Assisted Dying Bill, claiming that it ‘does not contain any specific safeguards’ and that assisted dying is just a euphemism for assisted suicide.

75% of disabled people support the choice of an assisted death

As a disabled person myself I am pleased that Baroness Grey-Thompson raised Lord Falconer’s Private Member’s Bill , as some disabled, and non-disabled people have understandable misconceptions about the issue.

Sadly Baroness Grey-Thompson’s piece perpetuates some of these myths. She suggests that disabled people would be at risk of coercion into an assisted death. This is simply not true. The choice of an assisted death under Lord Falconer’s proposed legislation would only ever apply to terminally ill, mentally competent adults; never to those who have a chronic illness, a disability or are able-bodied, but are not dying.

When surveyed, 75% of disabled people support the choice of an assisted death to be available to those who are dying.

The strict safeguards in Lord Falconer’s Assisted Dying Bill will protect vulnerable people

Professor Hawking appears to have made a thoughtful consideration of assisted dying and is right to highlight the need for strict upfront safeguards. Lord Falconer’s Assisted Dying Bill does contain specific safeguards; an assisted death is only a choice for those who are dying, for whom two independent doctors assess as being less than six months away from their imminent and inevitable death, and is competent to make the decision.

Baroness Grey-Thompson states that “terminal illness and physical disability aren’t the same thing – many people with disabilities aren’t terminally ill” and I completely agree. But the current legal framework gives no choice to the dying. Disabled and non-disabled dying people are forced to take desperate decisions in the absence of an assisted dying law.

While I am pleased that Baroness Grey-Thompson has raised the issue, I believe the only way to better protect all is to provide an assisted dying law with upfront safeguards ; the law which Lord Falconer proposes would better protect us all.