From the Telegraph, the most widely-read British newspaper: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/8501306/Allowing-assisted-suicide-would-pressurise-disabled-to-kill-themselves.html
By Tim Ross, Social Affairs Editor 7:00AM BST 09 May 2011
Disabled people say they fear a new law on assisted dying will pressure them into taking their own lives
Celebrities including the author Sir Terry Pratchett and the actor Sir Patrick Stewart have backed a campaign to allow terminally ill patients to receive help to die.
But a new poll found 70 per cent of disabled people were concerned that such a reform would create pressure on vulnerable patients to “end their lives prematurely”.
The survey for Scope, the leading disability charity, also found 3 per cent of the 500 disabled people questioned in the ComRes poll feared that they would personally come under pressure to commit suicide if the law were changed.
The findings follow a row over the BBC’s plans to broadcast a programme showing a man taking his own life at the Dignitas suicide clinic in Switzerland. The documentary is to be presented by Sir Terry, who has Alzheimer’s and is a supporter of euthanasia. It is due to be aired this summer.
Richard Hawkes, chief executive of Scope, said: “Assisted suicide is a complex and emotional issue, and there are loud and passionate voices on both sides of the debate.
“But while high profile lawyers, doctors and celebrities such as Terry Pratchett and Patrick Stewart grab the headlines, the views of the thousands of ordinary disabled people who could be affected by this issue are rarely listened to.
“Our survey findings confirm that concerns about legalising assisted suicide are not just held by a minority, but by a substantial majority of those this law would affect.
“Disabled people are already worried about people assuming their life isn’t worth living or seeing them as a burden, and are genuinely concerned that a change in the law could increase pressure on them to end their life.”
Mr Hawkes called on the Government to establish a new independent commission to explore the question of whether assisted dying should be legalised.
The Scope/ComRes survey also disclosed that 56 per cent of disabled people felt the legalisation of assisted suicide would be detrimental to the way that they are viewed by society as a whole.
High profile supporters of the Dignity in Dying campaign to reform the law include the author Ian McEwan and former England cricketer Chris Broad, whose late wife committed suicide after suffering from motor neurone disease. The campaign calls for a change in the law to legalise assisted suicide for mentally competent, terminally ill adults.
An unofficial “commission”, chaired by the former Lord Chancellor, Lord Falconer, and organised by the think-tank Demos, is currently holding an inquiry into the issue.
The head of end-of-life care for the NHS in the West Midlands told the commission that the current law was not fit for the 21st century and called for patients to be given more choice over how they die.