Sloping towards Assisted Dying and Assisted Suicide

Jan 25, 2023 by

by Stephen Balogh, Family Education Trust:

Many FET members and supporters will be familiar with the recent consultation process on the subject of “assisted dying/assisted suicide” initiated by the Health and Social Care Select Committee (HSCSC) of the House of Commons. Some may even have contributed to individual or collective responses. With the survey period now ended and results being collated, the HSCSC is also looking at experience in other countries. What will they find, and what will they decide to recommend to Parliament? Whilst doubtless one of the motivations for change is compassion for those undergoing intractable suffering, as is often cited, how easy would it be to contain it to such instances, often known in legal circles as “hard cases”? Is the intention even to do so, or instead to bring about more widespread change?

There may be a clue in the name of the inquiry. The exercise is described on the HSCSC website here as “a new inquiry to examine different perspectives in the debate on assisted dying/assisted suicide” (my italics). It also quotes the Committee Chair as saying, “The debate on assisted dying and assisted suicide understandably arouses passionate views with many different and equally valid perspectives”. If all are equally valid, what is the point in trying to distinguish between them, or is this simply a case of who shouts loudest? Sound familiar?

This brings us squarely to the dichotomy arising in so many aspects of the rapid social change countries especially in the West are experiencing, including the UK: total autonomy of the individual regardless of consequential effects (and increasingly with active, repurposed institutional involvement) versus selective limitations on individual freedom of action in recognition of their consequences on the individual, on others around them and on society as a whole.

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