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Last Updated: Tuesday, 15 April, 2003, 13:44 GMT 14:44 UK
Who should have the right to die?

In the wake of the case of a British couple committing suicide with the help of a Swiss euthanasia clinic, BBC News Online asks two campaigners for their views.


Dominica Roberts, spokesman on euthanasia for the Pro-Life Alliance, thinks assisted suicide is wrong under any circumstances.

Suicide is not punishable by law because it's not possible to punish people who have killed themselves. But when a healthy person tries to commit suicide we all rally round to help.

The family of Mr and Mrs Stokes say they weren't terminally ill and I'm sure they could have got help from them if they'd asked.

Reginald Crew, who committed suicide with the help of the Dignitas organisation
Reginald Crew was terminally ill

And in Switzerland it's a crime to help able-bodied people commit suicide and I hear the Swiss police are investigating this case.

I think there is something nasty under the surface with all these euthanasia cases.

Anybody can understand somebody being suicidal but shouldn't agree their life is worthless. People should support hospices and campaign for better pain relief where it's needed.

Not all terminally people really want to die - some are just depressed. We should give them more help instead of supporting a negative quick fix of just pushing them out of this world.

The media have done an enormous advertising job for euthanasia. In Oregon in the USA when they legalised assisted suicides, the suicide rate among able-bodied young men rose.

People were given the idea that suicide is the solution to problems if you're depressed.

In the UK we have good palliative care which the government needs to encourage and give more money to.

The government should support a bill preventing hospitals from withdrawing food and medication.

But everyone has the right to refuse medical treatment on their own behalf, as was the case with Miss B in Birmingham recently.

In Holland where euthanasia is legal, people are afraid to go into hospital for fear of being killed and hospice places are virtually non-existent - that should be a lesson to the UK about how things will develop here if we don't do something now.

Tamora Langley of the Voluntary Euthanasia Society believes assisted suicide should be legal - but only in the case of terminal illness.

We don't ever advise or help people in relation to getting assistance to die.

Since last summer we've had more than 400 calls about Dignitas but we don't give out that sort of information.

We only support assisted dying within proper safeguards, so the Stokes' case shows the current law is not working.

Man with syringe
Assisted suicide is legal in some countries

It's not stopping potentially vulnerable people who are not terminally ill from getting help to die overseas and it's not allowing people who are terminally ill and mentally competent to have the choice of asking for medical help to die.

We are supporting the Patient (Assisted Dying) bill which is currently in the House of Lords awaiting its second reading.

It respects the right of people to choose what they want and will stop the type of suffering Diane Pretty and Reginald Crew went through.

The government hasn't yet made its position on the bill clear but we would ask them to support it.

All public opinion polls report over 80% are for change in law but that's for terminally ill people, not suicide in general.

Suicide is not a crime, so whatever we say is neither here nor there, but assisting someone carries up to 14 years.

That's obviously a good thing regarding vulnerable people, but if someone has exhausted all options but can't physically end their own life, they should be able to get medical help.




SEE ALSO:
Suicide man's 'dignified' death
24 Jan 03  |  England
Diane's final journey
13 May 02  |  Health


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