Joan Bakewell is confusing end-of-life with ending-life decisions
Every patient has the right to refuse medical treatment, even if the treatment in question will prolong life.
Baroness Joan Bakewell is reported in The Mail as saying that “doctors should stop keeping terminally ill people ‘full of tubes’ alive if that is not what the patient wants”. She wants, we are told, “a ‘proper debate’ on euthanasia.
Of course, Baroness Bakewell may have been misreported. But, if the report of her words is correct, it reveals a fundamental misconception on her part of what the current political debate on ‘assisted dying’ is about. It is not about compelling people to stay alive, whether ‘full of tubes’ or not. Every patient has the right to refuse medical treatment, even if the treatment in question will prolong life. What the debate is about is something else. It is about licensing doctors to supply lethal drugs to terminally ill patients in order to assist their suicide. This reality is bubble-wrapped by the campaigning organisations in the comforting phrase ‘assisted dying’. But sound law-making requires clarity. Baroness Bakewell is confusing end-of-life decisions, which are legal and are made every day, with ending-life decisions, which are not and over which there is significant disagreement.
Baroness Bakewell wants to see “a proper debate” on the subject of ‘assisted dying’. In reality, Parliament has debated this subject at length on a number of occasions in recent years. It has always come to the same conclusion – that the proposals put forward would put vulnerable people at risk of harm. As for public debate, the issue of ‘assisted dying’ is rarely out of the media. It is difficult therefore to see what Baroness Bakewell means by “a proper debate” – unless she means a debate that reaches a different conclusion.