31/01/2006

Anti-euthanasia alliance formed

A new alliance has been formed to promote improved palliative care and oppose attempts to legalise assisted suicide or euthanasia.

The UK-based 'Care Not Killing' alliance includes human rights and healthcare groups, such as the British Council of Disabled People, the Association for Palliative Medicine and the Medical Ethics Alliance.

It has received the backing of Baroness Finlay, a member of the Lords Select Committee on the Assisted Dying for the Terminally Ill Bill and an expert in palliative medicine.

The alliance plans to oppose Lord Joffe's Bill - currently under consideration in the House of Lords - which would legalise physician-assisted suicide for the terminally ill in the UK.

John Wiles, Chairman of the Association of Palliative Medicine and a member of the Care Not Killing steering group, said: "There is an urgent need both to campaign for more and better palliative care whilst opposing any change in the law.

"Opposition to proposed changes in the law on assisted dying is widespread - but has been fragmented. This coalition is bringing together those many organisations and individuals, both in the healthcare sector and outside it, who regard euthanasia in any form as an unacceptable way forward."

Baroness Finlay said: "The UK has led the world in the provision of palliative care, which strives for true dignity in dying. We need to promote better understanding of the process."

The launch of the new alliance follows the renaming of the Voluntary Euthanasia Society last week to Dignity in Dying.

The debate was also in the news last week, when a British woman travelled to Switzerland to end her life at the controversial Dignitas clinic. Retired doctor Anne Turner, who suffered from supranuclear palsy, a progressive and incurable disease, had called for legislation to be changed in the UK so that terminally ill patients did not have to die before they were ready, because they had to travel abroad in order to commit assisted suicide.

Assisting a suicide is not a crime in Switzerland, provided there are no self-serving motives.

In England and Wales, those who assist a suicide face a maximum sentence of 14 years imprisonment.

(KMcA/SP)

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