Shadow disability minister admits backing assisted suicide bill
Summary: The shadow disability minister has admitted that many disabled activists may be “horrified” and “outraged” to learn that she is in favour of legalising assisted suicide.
And she has hinted strongly that she will consider resigning from her post because of her position on legalisation, depending on the response from disabled people and their organisations.
Continuing efforts by the euthanasia lobby to persuade parliament to introduce a legal right for terminally-ill people to have medical assistance to kill themselves are fiercely opposed by much of the disabled people’s movement, who see the battle to prevent such a law as a key disability rights issue.
But in an interview with Disability News Service (DNS), Labour’s Kate Green said she had never hidden her support for legalisation, and had backed the bill put forward in the last parliament by the Labour peer Lord Falconer.
That bill will provide the model for the new assisted dying bill that has been introduced into the Commons by Labour MP Rob Marris, and which will be debated by MPs on 11 September.
Green said: “I’m in favour of the concept. Assuming it’s going to be similar to the one [brought forward by Lord Falconer]that was debated in the Lords in the last parliament.”
She made it clear that she did not accept any of the key arguments put forward by disabled opponents of legalisation, such as the campaigning organisation Not Dead Yet UK, whose most high-profile member is the disabled crossbench peer Baroness [Jane] Campbell.
One of the key concerns about legalising assisted suicide, from organisations such as Not Dead Yet UK, is that it will not be possible to secure safeguards that will protect all disabled people, particularly from asking for an assisted suicide when they do not want to die.
Green said she accepted that “humans can never get everything right”, but that she had “no reason to believe that it is not” possible to draw up safeguards that would ensure no-one died unnecessarily.
She added: “If I’m not satisfied that we have been able to come up with legislation that provides those safeguards, naturally I won’t support it. I don’t want a single unnecessary or unwanted death.”
But she said that if the bill became law, and she was wrong, and those safeguards failed, she “will live with being wrong but true to my beliefs”.
Many disabled activists have highlighted what they say is the absurdity – and the danger – of seeking to legalise assisted suicide when disabled people still do not have the right to live independently.
But Green denied that it would be reckless to even consider introducing an assisted dying bill before there was a right to independent living.
She said: “I don’t make that assumption as being necessarily the case. They are equally valid and both have to be done, in my view.”
She added: “You don’t stop advancing on one agenda because another agenda is on a different part of the journey.
“I don’t see the assisted dying legislation as the kind of immediate threat that [some disabled people]are suggesting it would be.”
She said that she would not rule out backing a legal right to independent living, and that Labour – before the general election – had “signalled we would wish to secure that right, and if legislation was one of the things that it took then had I become the minister for disabled people I would have wanted to continue those discussions”.
She said: “My personal priority is to secure independent, dignified lives for disabled people.”
Green also dismissed fears that severe funding pressures in the NHS would make an assisted suicide law even more dangerous for disabled people.
She said: “It would certainly create a context for it. I don’t know that it would make it harder, because these decisions are going to be acute and rare and they will not be taken lightly or without engagement from a lot of people.
“There will be a multiplicity of components [to the process of securing an assisted suicide]and [all of the people involved]would all need to collectively [take]a decision.”
Green said her decision to back legalisation was due to “personal experience” as well as “some of the conversations with people who have seen loved ones die very painfully, very unhappily and distressingly and where there have been open conversations in the family in which that individual has wanted to be assisted to end their life and it hasn’t been possible”.
She said: “It’s a huge conscience issue, it’s not a political issue. It’s very much about people’s sense of what’s right.”
Green also insisted – as have Marris and Lord Falconer and many of their supporters – that the assisted dying bill was “not about disabled people” but was about “terminally-ill adults who make fully competent decisions”.
When DNS asked Green whether she believed that all terminally-ill people were also disabled people, she said she would “have to think very carefully about that before I answer it”.
Green also said she did not “readily accept” the so-called “slippery slope” argument, which warns that even if assisted suicide was legalised for a small section of people – such as terminally-ill people told they have less than six months to live – it would inevitably be widened out to other groups.
Opponents of legalisation point to the situation in Belgium, where people with autism, anorexia, borderline personality disorder, chronic fatigue syndrome, and manic depression have all been given an assisted suicide.
But Green said: “I don’t think I can draw any conclusions at all from Belgium about what might happen at some point in the future in relation to legislation that we haven’t got yet in the UK.”
Green insisted that although she might be “out-of-step with a number of organisations, I am also aware that I will be in-step with the feelings of many, many individuals”.
She said: “My job is to be in what I believe in my conscience is the right place to be.”
And she said she had no current intention of resigning from her role as shadow minister for disabled people over her support for legalisation of assisted suicide.
She said: “I have no intention of not continuing unless and until it becomes clear to me that I should not do so. That is not my feeling now.”
She said that disabled people “may be horrified, people may be outraged” when they learn of her position on assisted suicide.
But she said: “They are entitled to feel what they feel.”
She added: “I would like to hear direct from disabled people and from organisations… in order that I can assess the range of views and how people feel about this and the concerns that they have.
“I have no intention of not continuing unless and until it becomes clear to me that I should not do so. That is not my feeling now.”
In response to Green’s interview with DNS, Baroness Campbell said she would seek an urgent meeting with her “in order to explore, in more detail, why this proposed assisted suicide legislation is such a threat to disabled people’s safety, feelings of self-worth and right to equality”.
Ellen Clifford, a member of the steering group of Disabled People Against Cuts, said: “Kate Green’s support for the assisted dying bill reflects a lack of commitment towards the principles of choice and equality for disabled people.
“The question of assisted suicide is often mistakenly viewed as being about personal choice. It isn’t. It is a deeply political question concerning the right to live for an oppressed group of people.”
Source Disability News Service
Other recent news items:
- Doctors’ union finally agrees to spread the word
- Disability Politics UK: call to prioritise step free access
- Children with disabilities: targeted violence and hostility
- Dementia care: how social enterprises are developing products and services
- Adass spring seminar: four things you need to know
- The Disability Audit: the eight coalition policies that have hit disabled people
- DWP told to publish ESA deaths report, after two-year delay
- The struggle to find work when you have Down's syndrome
- PIP Delay Crisis Over, Claims DWP
- Meet Justin Tomlinson MP- New Minister For Disabled People
- A quick guide to new care minister Alistair Burt
- How to use your disability as a strength when applying for jobs
- Devastating impact of cuts on disabled people
- NHS ‘has wasted more than a year’ on latest bid to improve wheelchair services
- Five Thousand Disabled Adults Sexually Abused In Last 2 Years Says NSPCC
- ESA Claimant Takes On Maximus And Wins
- One in five benefit-related deaths involved sanctions, admits DWP
- Manchester United tell family with disabled son to watch Stockport instead
- Joint mental health commissioning strategy
- New parliament sees number of disabled MPs plunge
- Motability under spotlight over cuts to grants… despite £190 million reserves
- Disabled people ‘should come together in new national body’
- 'It's a great honour': Selby appoints UK's first mayor with learning disabilities
- Voluntary Community Social Enterprise Review website
- Cameron downgrades minister for disabled people
- Poor UK cancer survival rates linked to lack of GP direct access to scans
- Charity highlights role of siblings in supporting adults with a disability
- Queen’s Speech fails to mention social care funding
- Queen’s speech ‘suggests the worst is yet to come'
- TV industry must improve representation of disabled people
- The bionic suit helping wheelchair users get back on their feet
- New project to tackle mental health issues
- Equality watchdog contradicts football’s Premier League over access
- Schools 'must improve support for diabetic children'
- National Theatre plans shows on issue of disability
- Rise in mental health bed occupancy
- Watchdog writes to Man Utd after stewards confiscate walking aids from fans
- Government cuts ‘could see disabled people slide back to the bad old days’
- Disabled payment delay unlawful, judge rules
- The 'dragons' who want to help disabled people start their own business
- Boy, 12, wins £120,000 in damages after swine-flu jab left him 'severely disabled' by narcolepsy
- DWP ignores watchdog’s deadline over benefit-related deaths
- Man who cannot walk or talk called for jobcentre 'back to work' interview
- UK woman can ride bike for first time with 'world's most lifelike bionic hand'
- GPs to refer more patients with low-risk cancer symptoms under new NICE guidance
- Disability campaigners clash with police inside parliament over benefit cuts
- Indefinite Award DLA Transfer To PIP Will Start From July In Certain Postcodes
- Disabled children less happy with hospital care than peers
- ILF closure: Process has caused ‘fear, stress and anxiety’, say researchers
- Disability poverty rose sharply in fourth year of coalition
- UK services failing patients with dementia
- Shadow disability minister admits backing assisted suicide bill
- Disabled people's rights threatened by government cuts, campaigners warn
- BBC Three’s ‘Defying The Label’ Season
- From 'bloodied knees' to the House of Commons as a disabled MP
- Mental health patients sent hundreds of miles for beds as out of area placements rise 23 per cent
- Systematic over-medication blights learning disability care
- The Superhumans return to Channel 4
- Accessible Information Standard Approved
- Doctors demand return of lung cancer awareness campaign
- David O’Mar, 58, Found Fit For Work Two Weeks Before His Death
- World First Bionic Eye Gives Hope To Millions
- Seven-day NHS to include child mental health services, minister confirms
- Court hears appeal on ‘unfair’ PIP 20 metre rule consultation
- New report by Business Disability Forum cites lack of skills in line managers as major barrier to retention of disabled employees
- Tanni says 10,000 signatures could finally transform wheelchair services
- BBC3 presenter and journalist crowdfunding to transform the lives of people with disabilities in Ghana
- Disabled voters take pioneering legal action over election access
- Has disability sport lost its London 2012 Paralympics momentum?
- NHS Announce New Care Guidelines For Learning Disabilities
- Fresh evidence that ‘benefit scrounger rhetoric’ is causing hate crime
- Sanctioned Jobseekers With Mental Health Problems Are Not ‘Vulnerable’ Says DWP
- Clubs “Neglecting Responsibility” To Disabled Fans
- Latest Figures Show Massive Rise In ESA Sanctions
- ‘Bizarre’ figures raise fears over ministers’ plans for ESA
- School nurses ‘need better mental health training’
- Number of people developing dementia 'stabilising'
- Boy, nine, fitted with first prosthetic hand that can change grip with gestures
- Iain Duncan Smith criticises employers over disability employment gap
- Disability benefit sanctions soar by 30% in a year
- Thousands have died after being found fit for work, DWP figures show
- Goths at risk of depression or self-harming, research says
- Elderly 'ripped off' in mobility scooter market
- GPs are missing cancer in children - because they 'don't have enough training'
- IDS announces 'fitness for work' U-turn that was five years in the making
- People with autism and learning disabilities excel in creative thinking, study shows
- Starbucks apologises for telling woman she was not 'disabled enough' to use the toilet
- DLA Lifetime Award PIP Transition Started from 1 September in 29 New Areas
- Successful 'Fit for Work' Appeals at Highest Ever Level, Show DWP Stats
- Why is our justice system failing vulnerable people?
- UN investigating British Government over human rights abuses caused by IDS welfare reforms
- Coroners 'ground breaking' verdict: Suicide was 'triggered' by 'fit for work' test
- Schoolboy calls for more disabled characters in children's books
- The quadruple amputee who needs the correct prosthetic
- Welfare to work programme failing disabled and ill jobseekers, say charities
- Disabled fans 'delighted' as Premier League finally acts on access
- Two-thirds of adult social care requests rejected by local councils
- Independent Living Fund: Government silence 'suggests something to hide'
- UK employers report rise in mental health problems: CIPD study
- UN inquiry considers alleged UK disability rights violations
- Parliament's own disability group picks first non-disabled chair in nearly 50 years
- Dementia drug 'keeps patients out of nursing homes'
- Disability benefit cuts will actually make it harder for disabled people to find work,coalition of 60 charities warns
- Problems with the care and treatment provided by the NHS and/or difficulties in accessing health services?
- Consultation on the proposed new adult social care strategy
- The Leicestershire Advice Service for Social Care is here to guide you
- Minister: MPs must help 'open doors' for disabled jobseekers
- 'Homes not hospitals': learning disability care to move to community
- Equality Act 'simply isn't strong enough' for BSL-users, peers are told
- Disability Hate Crimes Rise 41% In A Year
- Companies fear employing people with learning disabilities, survey reveals
- DWP cuts specialist disability employment advisors in jobcentres by over 60 per cent
- Watchdog 'must do more to support disabled people to fight discrimination'
- ‘We must keep banging the drum,’ says bus campaigner after five-year fight for justice
- 2,000 disabled people wrongly declared ‘fit to work’ by DWP in just three months
- Local authorities 'spend close to nothing on mental health'
- Rock band with learning disabilities release first single
- NICE seeks to improve diagnosis and treatment of cerebral palsy
- Premier League clubs face legal threat unless disabled access is improved
- UK’s progress on disability rights ‘patchy and tortuous’, UN told
- Peer pressure sees minister finally announce date for taxi access laws
- Stop the NHS slashing vulnerable people’s care packages in and around Leicestershire
- Minister tells industries to increase representation of disabled people
- Disabled children in England 'finding it increasingly hard to access council care'
- Wheelchair Rugby Loses Funding Appeal
- Plans that could force people into institutions could be ‘front line’ of national problem
- Young people 'fear stigma' if they ask for mental-health help
- Disability benefits process is 'inherently flawed', MPs told
- Businesses woefully ill-equipped to deal with Britain's rapidly growing mental health crisis
- Cash boost for pupils with special needs and disability
- PIP investigation: ‘Horrific’ suicide question sparks fresh assessment inquiry calls
- Disability report: Being disabled in Britain
- Stop PIP reassessments for patients with progressive diseases, campaigners say
- Patients with learning disabilities missing out on health checks
- Thousands have disability vehicles taken away
- Aspire announces GLL and LCiL as first partners to lead InstructAbility
- Easy read guide to voting by post
- Online campaign ‘could enable disabled people to affect election outcome’
- Health Committee inquiry and report: Brexit and Health and Social Care – People and Process
- Women’s Resource Centre report: the Impact of Austerity Measures on Women’s Voluntary and Community Organisations
- Disabled people ‘forced into dangerous workfare that breaches health and safety laws’
- Mental Health Foundation report: Surviving or Thriving? The State of the UK’s Mental Health
- Stirling University to launch home dementia app
- General Election 2017: What are the parties promising disabled people?
- Anger, resignation… and optimism in wake of general election result
- New disabled MPs pledge to fight for rights in parliament