Bradford right-to-die campaigner speaks about 'limitations' of assisted dying bill

Right-to-die campaigner Debbie Purdy

Debbie Purdy outside Parliament

First published in News
Last updated

MULTIPLE sclerosis sufferer and right-to-die campaigner Debbie Purdy has spoken out about the limitations of the assisted dying bill which is due to be debated in Parliament later this week.

Miss Purdy, of Undercliffe, Bradford, welcomed the intervention of the former archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey at the weekend. But she said she had concerns that the bill would be misunderstood and misused due to its limitations.

Her comments come after Lord Carey dropped his opposition to the bill saying that it was not "anti-Christian" to believe that terminally ill people should be allowed to die with dignity. He changed his mind "in the face of the reality of needless suffering", citing the case of Tony Nicklinson, who had locked-in syndrome and died after being refused the legal right to die, as having the "deepest influence" on his decision.

In contrast the current Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has spoken out in opposition of assisted suicide, with The Church of England calling this weekend for a major review on whether to allow assisted dying.

The bill would make it legal for adults in England and Wales to be given assistance ending their own life. It would apply to those with less than six months to live. Two doctors would need to confirm the patient was terminally ill and had reached an informed choice.

Miss Purdy, who won a legal challenge in 2009 for the guidelines on assisted suicide to be re-examined, said: "The bill would not have had any effect on Tony Nicklinson whatsoever. Nor will it help me, or many of the other high profile court cases, such as Paul Lamb of Pudsey. The reason being we are not terminally ill.

"I am quite nervous that people will misunderstand the bill and use it inappropriately. Also it does not give patients the final control, as it gives doctors the responsibility.

"It is a politician's fudge as far as I am concerned."

The private members bill receives its second reading in the Lords on Friday.

The Right Reverend Nick Baines, the first Anglican Bishop of the new Diocese of West Yorkshire and the Dales, said: "So, Lord Carey has changed his mind about assisted dying by polarising ‘compassion’ and ‘doctrine’, and stating that the church had to come to terms with ‘lived realities’."

Writing his latest blog, the former Bishop of Bradford asked who should decide what constituted compassion, especially when a terminally ill person might urge assistance in dying early on in the process, but change their mind as they come to terms with the prognosis.

He then raised the question of when doctrine became emptied of compassion.

The Rt Rev Baines added: "Lord Carey says his mind was changed by the Nicklinson case. But, ‘Locked-in Syndrome’ is not a terminal illness and should not, therefore, be covered by the arguments he makes. Isn’t this what we call a category error?

"What is a ‘lived reality’ and why is it cut adrift from considerations of thinking about why we matter? When did philosophy become the opposite of humanity and divorced from the rest of life?"

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