World News

Don’t use ’tragic case’ to legalize assisted suicide, UK group says

assisted suicide

An anti-euthanasia group in the UK is calling for the continuation of laws against assisted suicide, as the family of an elderly woman acquitted of murdering her husband wants the laws relaxed.

“It is sad to see this case being used to try and justify a campaign to rip up long held universal protections, by treating those who are terminally ill, disabled, or have chronic conditions differently in law,” said Dr. Gordon Macdonald, chief executive of Care Not Killing.

“We know from the handful of places that have made such a change vulnerable people often feel pressured into ending lives prematurely.”

A jury cleared Mavis Eccleston, 80, of the murder and manslaughter of her husband Dennis, 81, in September, Christian News Agency reports.

Mavis was accused of giving her husband a lethal dose of prescription medicine without his knowledge in a February “mercy killing.”

The Suicide Act 1961 makes it illegal to encourage or assist a death in England and Wales, the BBC reports. In 2015 the U.K. parliament rejected a bill that would have legalized assisted suicide for patients with a terminal diagnosis.

Mavis told jurors that she and her husband had both intended to take their lives with the medication, and that they had decided to do so after Dennis’ diagnosis of terminal cancer.

The couple was found in their apartment by family members on Feb. 19, 2018, after they had taken the drugs. The couple was rushed to the hospital and given an antidote to the medication. Mavis survived; Dennis did not.

Other countries such as Belgium, the Netherlands and Canada have legalized assisted suicide, and Macdonald notes that negative effects of these legal decisions are already being demonstrated there.

In Canada, he said, which only changed the law in 2016, improvements to palliative medicine have not materialised, courts have extended assisted suicide to those with chronic conditions that are not terminal, and some patients are denied medical care and instead offered lethal drugs.

He also highlighted the case of a Belgian woman, Godelieva De Troyer, who was physically healthy but suffered from depression for a majority of her life and the Belgian state euthanised her in 2012 “without consulting either her son, or the psychiatrist who had cared for her for more than 20 years.”

A Belgian report on euthanasia in 2016-17 suggests that an estimated six people are euthanized daily in the country, where the practice has been legal since 2002.

Leave a reply