Assisted dying

Why we don’t need another vote on euthanasia

Ethical issues such as abortion and euthanasia are rightly considered matters of personal conscience for MPs at Westminster, so Keir Starmer’s promise of a vote on assisted dying does not automatically mean that Britain will follow Belgium, the Netherlands and Canada in legalising euthanasia, no matter how large a majority Labour might win. When the House of Commons held a similar vote in 2015, it was heavily defeated by 330 votes to 118, though Starmer himself voted in favour. Nevertheless, we should be concerned about this development. The campaign for assisted dying has recently been energised by the intervention of Esther Rantzen, who is herself terminally ill with lung cancer.

At home in the multiverse: Bridge, by Lauren Beukes, reviewed

Lauren Beukes is a writer who puts cerebral propositions into breakneck thrillers: structural misogyny in The Shining Girls; the flipside of patriarchy in Afterland. In Bridge, she investigates the depressive’s favourite hypotheticals – could have, should have, would have, might have. The protagonist is Bridget, whose mother, Jo, has recently died from brain cancer. Jo was a scientist, interested in rather eccentric ideas, and has bequeathed Bridget a problematic legacy. It seems as if Jo had found a way, using harmonics, visual stimuli and an odd, worm-like thing (think fungus or parasite or the nematode in a tequila bottle) to access other realities. Through trial and error, Bridget manages to

Canada’s assisted dying horror story

My favourite Martin Amis novel was his 1991 book Time’s Arrow. It is a pyrotechnically brilliant work in which all time goes backwards. On publication it was criticised in some quarters because the novel includes a reverse version of the Holocaust and some thought Amis was using the Holocaust as a literary device. As so often, these transient critics didn’t get the point. It is hard to say anything new about the Holocaust or find any new angle on it. Europe, like Canada, does not believe in the death penalty for criminals. Only for victims But Amis managed, because towards the end of the novel (that is, at the beginning

Assisted dying is a slippery slope

What are your thoughts on assisted dying and assisted suicide? That’s the question asked by a Health and Social Care Committee consultation, closing today, that could shape changes to the law on euthanasia. Having had intimate experience of what can happen when a vulnerable person feels themselves to be a burden, I’m against. My mother had Parkinson’s, and once she burst out to me that: ‘You’d have so much more time and money if it weren’t for me’. It would be the easiest thing in the world to push someone in that condition towards feeling that it would be better for everyone if she were given a dignified death. Actually

There are no safeguards when it comes to euthanasia

Molly Meacher, whose Bill to allow assisted dying gets its further reading in the Lords today, gave an interesting interview on BBC radio today – there was no other speaker to counter her arguments; an exchange of views came later in the programme. She explained that her engagement with the cause had been prompted by the lonely death of an aunt who had a terminal illness; she went on to describe the unpleasant conditions that could not be dealt with by palliative care. But then the interviewer, Martha Kearney, went on to ask about the problem that old people might be made to feel a burden. Baroness M said that

Letters: Don’t let the parish perish

Parish problems Sir: Emma Thompson draws attention to a serious problem in the Church of England (‘Power to the parish’, 25 September). Why are they trying to make it easier to close down parishes when the parish is where the people are to whom the church must minister? The parish is also the major funder of the C of E through the generosity of its many local donors. If you take away the incumbent, you take away a major portion of the income for both parish and diocese. One reason many parishes struggle to pay their parish share is because it has been swelled by the diocese to pay for the ever-growing

Letters: The lure of lorry driving

Driving force Sir: As a long-distance UK lorry driver I am very aware of the issues raised by Rodney Pittam (‘So long, truckers’, 18 September). However the job can provide an income of more than £40,000 to those with a practical rather than an academic bent. Yes, there is unpleasantness, discomfort and a combative attitude from other road users. But there is also a high degree of independence, a chance to see this country and others, and a sense of pride in the job. Better facilities are overdue in this country for drivers, and this may go some way — together with greater remuneration — to creating more respect for

Can doctors be ‘neutral’ on assisted dying?

The British Medical Association (BMA) has dropped its opposition to assisted dying after a landmark vote. In doing so, it marks a journey from professional principle onto the ethical fence. This is not the first time the BMA has declared itself neutral on the termination of post-natal human life. In 2005, the organisation voted to switch from opposition to neutrality on physician-assisted suicide but that position was overturned the following year amid charges that the policy shift had been achieved through an ‘extraordinary manoeuvre’ and ‘procedural tactics’. A decade later, in 2016, the body again rejected adoption of a neutral stance following a consultation with 500 association members and the

The disturbing campaign to legalise assisted dying

Assisted dying looks closer than ever to becoming law in the United Kingdom. Both the House of Lords and the Scottish parliament have recently discussed proposals for it and polling suggests eight out of ten people in Britain favour a change to the law.  It is hard not to agree that people should have the option to end their lives. But assisted dying should not be treated as a glorified painkiller. Though campaigners are undoubtedly sincere in their desire to alleviate distress, the history of the assisted dying campaign suggests that often there are those with a more worrying goal: the use of assisted dying to create a more ‘efficient’ society. Assisted dying

The courts, the bishops and the troubling case of a dying man

It’s not every day a Polish bishop asks an English bishop to write to Matt Hancock to plead for the life of a Polish citizen living in England, but that’s what’s happened this week. Last year, Mr RS, as he’s known, had a heart attack, went to hospital in Plymouth and was given hydration and nutrition through tubes into his body. The hospital withdrew this support after a court ruling earlier this month. RS’s wife and children, living here, wanted the hydration and feeding stopped; his Polish mother and sisters wanted it maintained. The Court of Appeal has sided with his wife and children, while the European Court of Human

Last rights | 17 April 2019

Four years ago, the Assisted Dying Bill was overwhelmingly defeated in parliament. The euthanasia debate hasn’t disappeared, however. One recent poll showed that 90 per cent of the UK’s population now support assisted dying for the terminally ill. So is a relaxation of the law inevitable? Would it represent progress? Or is it very dangerous? Our literary editor Sam Leith joined our associate editor Douglas Murray to discuss.   Sam: I find myself, possibly in accordance with my position as one of The Spectator’s hand-wringing liberals, in favour of assisted dying but I want to be clear on the narrowness of that position. The Assisted Dying Bill would not have

At death’s door

It is a sunny Saturday afternoon in Covent Garden and we are all learning how to kill ourselves. The venue is a nondescript community centre in Stukeley Street. It usually hosts activities for children, so there are crayon drawings and anti-bullying posters on the noticeboard. Today, however, a purple pop-up banner displays the Exit International logo and its mission statement: ‘A peaceful death is everybody’s right.’ Admittance to the four-hour workshop costs £50 and is reserved for those over the age of 50 and the seriously ill. The company collects around the tea hatch, everyone fanning themselves with their copies of the Exit International magazine, Deliverance. There are 80 or

Letters | 24 September 2015

Have faith, Nick Sir: Rarely have I read an article as powerful as Nick Cohen’s (‘Why I left’, 19 September). As a lifelong Tory, all I feel qualified to say is that I think I understand. I am certain, however, that Messrs Corbyn, McDonnell et al will soon be consumed by the fire of their own hatred, and disappear in a puff of acrid smoke. Have faith in the British electorate, Nick. Jem Raison Shipston on Stour, Warwickshire No mention of Paula Sir: With regards to Simon Barnes’s article about drugs in sport (‘Our drugs cheat’, 19 September), I have not ‘outed’ Paula Radcliffe as anything, let alone as a

Down with slippery slopes!

Well, of course the Assisted Dying Bill failed. It mattered not a jot that an overwhelming majority of public opinion urged its success; it was always going to fail and the only surprising thing is that anybody is surprised. I’ll bet my teeth on a few more certainties, too. Last week the required 200,000 people put down their spliffs long enough to sign a petition in favour of decriminalising cannabis and thus, in October, the matter will be debated by MPs. Proponents, however, really should not bother — they will lose, regardless. Also last week it was reported that genetic engineering is now our most rapidly developing area of scientific

Matthew Parris

Soon we will accept that useless lives should end

[audioplayer src=”″ title=”Matthew Parris and Freddy Gray debate whether assisted dying will ever become accepted” startat=1781] Listen [/audioplayer]Throughout the short life of the Assisted Dying Bill which failed last week in the Commons, the ‘faith community’ (a quaint term for that category of human beings who throughout history have been more assiduous than any other in trying to kill each other) have with skill and persistence deployed an argument of great potency. Such is the argument’s intuitive appeal that the pro-assisted-dying brigade never found a way of countering it. They have resorted simply to denying that what the faith squad say would happen, could happen. But it could. The argument

Podcast: the death of the left and Jeremy Corbyn’s first few days as leader

What has happened to the left-wing of British politics? On this week’s View from 22 podcast, Nick Cohen discusses his Spectator cover feature with Fraser Nelson on why he is resigning from the left, following the election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader. Why have some activists become intolerable of views that differ slightly from their hard-left perspective? Should those who have had enough of the Labour party join the Conservatives? And is Labour’s shift to the left a temporary blip or a longer trend? James Forsyth and Isabel Hardman also discuss Corbyn’s first week as Labour leader and whether his new take on PMQs is something that will stick. Has Corbyn’s

Letters | 17 September 2015

What firefighters do Sir: Leo McKinstry’s vicious, misleading article ‘Out of the ashes’ (12 September) shows that he has no understanding of the real issues facing firefighters today. He implies firefighters sit around doing nothing while other emergency services are doing the real work. Nothing could be further from the truth. Firefighters rescue more than 38,000 people every year, working regularly with paramedics, ambulance staff and police. There has been reluctance in the past from the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) to sanction firefighters stepping in to help with medical rescues as a matter of course, since such moves need to be made carefully, with assurances that proper training will be

No, doctors are not already upping painkillers to help their patients die

The Assisted Dying debate in the House of Commons will be well worth re-reading or watching in full: it has been one of the best. The Bill will not progress any further, after MPs voted 330 to 118 against giving it a second reading. You can listen to some of the very best speeches from a morning of thoughtful, respectful, passionate debate here. But one speech that elicited unusually loud noises of dissent from across the Chamber was from Labour’s Paul Flynn, who suggested that assisted dying is already happening in hospitals. He said that doctors who reassured family members that patients would not suffer any pain were ‘going to

Isabel Hardman

The best arguments from the assisted dying debate

The debate currently taking place on the second reading of the Assisted Dying Bill in the Commons is one of the best ones MPs have conducted in recent times. It is full of vehement, passionate disagreement. But it is also well-informed, not absurdly tribal or rowdy, and a debate that focuses on scrutinising the legislation itself, rather than slinging mud at the other side’s motives. Here are the best speeches so far, as they come – on both sides of the debate.

Many people feel their life is worthless. The Assisted Dying Bill tells them they might just be right

As Charles Killick Millard conceded, there was an issue about grandparents. Millard, the leading figure of the Voluntary Euthanasia Legalisation Society back in the 30s, realised that people might cajole their elderly relatives into choosing death. But this had its benefits, he argued: ‘It would make querulous old folk more careful how they dilated upon their aches and pains.’ Havelock Ellis, one of the Society’s celebrity supporters, was blunter: he expressed his annoyance that ‘we are terribly afraid of killing those citizens whom we all regard as financially unpromising.’ There is a callousness in those remarks which resurfaces whenever assisted suicide is put forward. You can hear it in Baroness