Assisted dying

The Spectator’s notes | 10 September 2015

Presumably Britain has some sort of policy on immigration, asylum and refugees, but instead of struggling to understand it, you can save time by following its media presentation, since that is what seems to concern the government most. Essentially, the line is that Labour lets them all in and the Tories don’t and won’t (‘No ifs, no buts’). When, as at the last election, it turns out that net immigration has been rising under David Cameron, he apologises shyly and sounds tough again. He was sounding very tough until last week, when the photograph of the dead boy on the Turkish beach suddenly turned him all soft. This Monday, his

Letters | 10 September 2015

Biblical suggestions Sir: I wish to offer a couple of comments on Matthew Parris’s observation that although his ‘Christian atheism’ provides him with a moral framework, he feels the urge to help people in need, yet feels let down because Jesus offers no guidance about who to help and to what degree (‘Christianity is silent on my great moral dilemma’, 5 September). Jesus wants us to use our minds and our experiences, rather than simply applying set rules, and here is an example of how this works. Take the golden rule of ‘Do unto others’, add to it the Good Samaritan, and stir in the parable of the sheep and

Letters | 3 September 2015

Suicide and assisted dying Sir: As a mental health practitioner, I am grateful to Douglas Murray (‘Death watch’, 29 August) for his incisive commentary on the impact of legalised euthanasia on people with psychiatric conditions. Supporters of assisted dying argue that a permissive act would be tightly framed, but the scope would inevitably widen, as has occurred in Holland. Although Lord Falconer and fellow travellers would bar people of unsound mind from the intended provision, this would soon be challenged as discriminatory: because effectively, a person would be punished for losing decision-making capacity. If proponents of euthanasia are really so rational, while their opponents are blinded by emotion or faith, how

Podcast: Charlie Falconer vs Douglas Murray on assisted dying

The Assisted Dying Bill will return to the Commons and Lords in the near future – are we prepared for the consequences? On the latest View from 22 podcast, Douglas Murray debates this week’s cover feature with Lord Falconer, the former Justice Secretary and Lord Chancellor who has been a key proponent of the bill. Are there lessons to be learnt from euthanasia legislation in Holland, Belgium and Oregon? What impact will the law have on the mentalities of older people? And are there enough provisions in the bill to stop assisted dying becoming a ‘slippery slope’? Isabel Hardman and James Cleverly, the Conservative MP for Braintree, also discuss the 2015 intake

Douglas Murray

Death watch | 27 August 2015

[audioplayer src=”″ title=”Lord Falconer and Douglas Murray debate ‘assisted dying'” startat=42] Listen [/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

The Spectator’s Notes: this is the worst reshuffle since 1989

[audioplayer src=”″ title=”Charles Moore and Fraser Nelson discuss the reshuffle” startat=851] Listen [/audioplayer]This must be the worst reshuffle since Mrs Thatcher demoted Geoffrey Howe in 1989. Unlike that one, its errors are unforced. This year, David Cameron had established a surprisingly strong position as the leader whose unpopular but necessary policies were starting to work. He and his team seemed steadier and more able than their opponents. Now he has thrown that away with changes so large that he looks as if he disrespects what he has achieved. He has singled out for punishment those ministers who were brave and active — most notably Michael Gove and Owen Paterson, demoting

By supporting assisted dying, Lord Carey has united Christians against it

He didn’t mean to, but Lord Carey, the outspoken and unpopular former Archbishop of Canterbury, may just have carried out a minor miracle. By coming out in the Daily Mail in favour of assisted suicide, he has succeeded in bringing together Christians of all denominations and political persuasions to oppose him. Trendy evangelicals, Catholics, Anglo-Catholics, and the Orthodox may have profound differences, but one thing they know is that disagree with Lord Carey, especially when he makes out that the truly Christian position is to support this first step towards legal euthanasia in Britain, which will be debated in the House of Lords this week. Carey is not exactly well

Assisted dying? Ancient religion was all for it

There is something mildly unexpected about religious groups’ hostility to euthanasia. After all, in the ancient world one of the major differences between e.g. Christians and pagans was that Christians were renowned for welcoming, indeed rejoicing at, death. Pagans found this incomprehensible. Not that pagans feared the afterlife. Although, in the absence of sacred texts, there were no received views on the matter, Greeks reckoned that if the gods were displeased with you, they would demonstrate it in this life rather than the next. Initiates into the Eleusinian Mysteries were promised a prosperous afterlife, but Diogenes the cynic retorted: ‘Do you mean that Pataikion the thief will enjoy a better

Spectator letters: A surgeon writes on assisted dying, and an estate agent answers Harry Mount

Real help for those in pain Sir: The fickleness of existence is exemplified by the fact that being Tony Blair’s ex-flatmate puts you in the position of further eroding the moral fabric of the nation without ever having had stood for office. An advert for Charlie Falconer’s Assisted Dying Bill is rather cynically placed opposite Jenny McCartney’s nuanced examination of the implications of this potential legislation (‘Terminally confused’, 5 July). Among other points, Ms McCartney quite correctly reprises the ‘slippery slope’ argument, which in the case of legalised abortion turned out to have been prophetic. One of her issues is the involvement of medical staff. Apart from the actual executioner’s

How should we describe ‘assisted dying’?

There is, I realise, no perfect, neutral way of describing ‘assisted dying’, the substance of Lord Falconer’s bill which comes up for its second reading on 18th July. ‘Right to die’ is a bit tricky; dying is one of those rights that are thrust upon us without our even asking. It’s part of the human condition; just wait long enough, and it’s yours. And as Jenny McCartney eloquently makes clear in her piece on the subject, it’s actually assisted suicide — the assistance being provided by a doctor – or if you prefer, killing by request. As for the safeguards in the bill about it being limited to those with

Podcast: The UK without Scotland, assisted dying and modern slavery

How would the rest of the United Kingdom cope without Scotland? On this week’s View from 22 podcast, James Forsyth discusses his Spectator cover feature with Fraser Nelson and Eddie Bone from the Campaign for an English Parliament. Would England be left a lesser country without Scotland? Why has no one looked into how dramatic the situation would be? Could the UK hold its position on the international stage? And why are we so keen to talk down Britishness? Madeleine Teahan from the Catholic Herald and James Harris of Dignity in Dying also debate the campaign to legalise assisted dying and whether Britain is actually granting doctors a license to kill

Jenny McCartney

The terminal confusion of Dignity in Dying

[audioplayer src=”″ title=”James Harris and Madeleine Teahan discuss the Assisted Dying Bill” startat=874] Listen [/audioplayer]If you were around in the days when the US series M*A*S*H was a regular feature on British television, its sing-song theme is probably still lodged in your memory: ‘Suicide is painless/ It brings on many changes/ And I can take or leave it if I please’. However catchy, it is broadly untrue. The human life force is stubborn, and it takes a visceral struggle to extinguish it. Suicide, as commonly practised by amateurs, is not painless: it is frequently agonising, complicated, botched and has ample potential to leave one still alive but with a cruel

I am ready to talk about my death. Is anyone else?

It is October 2012 and my ovarian cancer is back. As we wait to see the consultant I say to my best friend, ‘We are going to Mexico this weekend to get that stuff so I can kill myself. We’ll probably get killed by drug barons.’ My consultant says I have three years. I agree to more chemo and ask: ‘Can I go to Mexico?’ She looks baffled. It is February 2013 and the consultant is discussing hospices. She is eight months pregnant. I don’t tell her about the Mexican barbiturate in the fridge. I do tell the nice hospice counsellor, though. She goes white. ‘The drug dealers seem to

Letters: Cyclists reply to Rod Liddle, and an MP replies to Hugo Rifkind

Rod rage Sir: Like most cyclists, who also own a car and pay road tax, I enjoy a pedal along the lanes where I act with consideration for other road users, and the vast majority of them treat me likewise. Cycling in traffic is quite scary but now I know that Rod Liddle could be behind the wheel of an approaching car it becomes positively terrifying (‘Off your bike!’, 9 November). Anyone who can express such road rage on a keyboard is hardly fit to drive. How fortunate that he is part of a minority. Oh, and I wear Lycra for comfort, a helmet for safety and am 71 years

Letters | 7 November 2013

Counting on the country Sir: I spent many hours helping to canvas for local Conservative candidates before the last two elections (‘The countryside revolts’, 2 November). I was motivated to do so because of the Labour government’s prejudice against the rural community. The Conservative party offered a chance to redress this prejudice through repealing or amending legislation on small employers, hunting, communication, transport, fuel, immigration and the EU. But progress on these issues has been negligible. We see no action on the Hunting Act, and no action to stop the harassment of country people by vigilante pressure groups, despite managing a more robust reaction to anti-fracking campaigners. Huge effort has

The fight for your life is now raging

Beneath your noses, a great change in this country is being planned. Secret polls have been taken, and a private member’s bill has been tabled. The euthanasia lobby is limbering up for the fight of its life: to change the law for once and for all. The Assisted Dying Bill, introduced by former Lord Chancellor Lord Falconer, is the fourth such to come before the House of Lords in the last decade. Since it is almost identical to the last bill, which sought to let doctors supply lethal drugs to terminally ill patients and which Parliament rejected in 2006, why is this one being introduced? The answer has largely to