Scope warning ahead of assisted dying debate

Scope urges MPs to vote against the legalisation of assisted dying 

Scope warns that legalising assisted dying, to be debated in the House of Commons on Friday 11 September, will seriously risk the lives of disabled people.

In a brief to MPs, Scope points out that the Bill’s new judicial safeguard, to involve the High Court in assisted dying decisions, still fails to protect individuals who could be heavily influenced by negative attitudes or feelings of being a burden.

The charity, which works with disabled people and their families across England and Wales, highlights that 64% of disabled people are concerned about moves towards legalising assisted dying and nearly 62% of those people are worried that a law change would lead to them being pressured into ending their lives prematurely.

This mirrors international evidence which shows that in places where assisted suicide is legal, people are more likely to end their lives because they feel they are a burden on others. In the US State of Washington, 61% of those requesting to end their lives did so because they felt a burden on friends, family or carers.
The most common end-of-life concerns for patients that requested assisted suicide in Oregon included losing autonomy (91%); being less able to participate in activities that make life enjoyable (89%); loss of dignity (81%) and being a burden on family, friends and carers (40%).

Mark Atkinson, interim Chief Executive at disability charity Scope, said:
“If we make a law change on assisted dying we could risk the lives of disabled people and send a distressing message that the lives of sick and disabled people are not worth as much as other people’s. 

Why is it that when people who are not disabled want to take their own lives we try to talk them out of it, but when it's a disabled person we focus on how to make that possible? Rather than talking about how to make suicide possible for vulnerable people, we should spend more time thinking about how their lives have meaning and value. 

Negative social attitudes towards disabled people need to be challenged. There needs to be an increased focus on ensuring that disabled people receive the care and support they need to live independently and retain control and autonomy over their lives".

Notes to the editor:

For more information or to request interviews please call Kate Redway in the Scope Press & PR team on 020 7619 7200 or email kate.redway@scope.org.uk

Scope works with disabled people, of all ages and their families, across England and Wales. We offer practical, everyday support and deliver campaigns that can change lives. Our vision is a world where disabled people have the same opportunities as everyone else. Together we can create a better society. www.scope.org.uk
 
[i] Opinium research conducted an online survey of 1,005 disabled UK adults aged 18 and over between 7th and 11th July 2014 
[ii] Washington State Department of Health. Washington State Department of Health 2013 Death with Dignity Act Report Executive Summary www.doh.wa.gov/portals/1/Documents/Pubs/422-109-DeathWithDignityAct2013.pdf
[iii] Oregon Public Health Authority (2014), Annual Report on the Death with Dignity Act, p.6-7 https://public.health.oregon.gov/ProviderPartnerResources/EvaluationResearch/DeathwithDignityAct/Documents/year16.pdf

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