Douglas Murray Douglas Murray

Death watch | 27 August 2015

Euthanasia’s development in Holland and Belgium is a cautionary tale for those considering the idea here

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[/audioplayer]A couple of years ago I contacted Holland’s top pro-euthanasia organisation. Our House of Lords looks likely to approve a bill legalising euthanasia here, I told them. ‘Very exciting!’ came the reply.

Next month Parliament will again be discussing ‘assisted dying’, and although the tone of the British debate is not yet quite like the Dutch one, a shift in tone has undoubtedly occurred. In the past few years euthanasia has been renamed ‘assisted dying’ and become part of the ‘progressive’ cause. As two assisted dying bills, including Lord Falconer’s, come back to Parliament, the onus seems to have moved away from supporters having to explain why people should be killed before nature takes its often-ugly course on to opponents of euthanasia explaining why they could conceivably wish to prolong anybody’s suffering. As Dignity in Dying puts it in one of their advertisements, this is about letting people safely control ‘the manner and timing of their death’.

This week the Labour leadership candidate Liz Kendall backed assisted dying, telling an interviewer, ‘I believe in giving people as much power and control over what happens to them as possible.’

The House of Lords has proved an especially good place to debate this. Many members have friends or spouses who have experienced the miracles of modern medicine and endured the prolonged indignities that can be a side-product of that blessing. Most lords belong to a lucky generation, having won the full panoply of rights. The right to education and welfare were followed by sexual liberation, which from the 1960s onwards came with the idea of having total rights over one’s own body, including the right to abort unwanted fetuses. It is partly in this language that Lord Falconer’s bill comes wrapped: the baby-boomers awarding themselves one last right — the ‘right to die’.

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