46.Memorandum from Mrs Dominica Roberts,
Pro Life Alliance (MIB 16)
1. Although much of this draft bill is useful
and helpful, there are several clauses which would inevitably
be abused as they stand.
2. There may well be cases where the opinion
of doctors or of a patient is that intrusive treatment to prolong
life is unreasonably painful or disagreeable, but it should be
made clear that deliberately ending a life, either actively or
by withdrawing artificially provided nutrition and hydration,
can never be in the patient's best interests.
3. The bias should always be that a patient
wishes to continue living, unless (as with someone able to make
his or her wishes known) he or she has made a very recent, clearly
worded, and properly informed decision to refuse treatment, or
has shown clearly that an earlier wish is still valid. Advance
directives to withhold treatment in certain circumstances are
obviously dangerous. It is a very common experience indeed that
people think they would not wish to go on living in certain circumstances,
but find that they feel differently when it actually happens.
4. The same applies to disabled people,
who usually wish to go on living just as much as the able-bodied
(or more, since I understand the suicide rate is lower) and are
often affronted by the implication that their lives are worthless
and that they would wish to die.
5. Patients and their representatives should
be able to say "Please do resuscitate, or do continue the
treatment". There have been several cases where medical staff
have thought a patient, eg a handicapped child, not worth saving
even by quite ordinary means, in spite of the parents' wishes.
6. Every single case of a decision which
might hasten death should be recorded as such, and the doctor
should be answerable to a specific small panel of doctors, whose
job it would be to look out for abuses. Whether one thinks easy
abortion a good or a bad thing, no one denies that in 1967 it
was intended only for the very hard cases and is now on demand
for objectively trivial reasons. It is no one's job to check whether
an aborted baby was in fact handicapped, or whether a woman would
actually have been likely to be harmed at all by continuing the
pregnancy. Similar abuses would inevitably happen if the idea
of death being in a patient's best interests was legalised.
Decisions under the bill about sterilisation
or abortion should also be recorded as such and have to be justified
to a panel of doctors (though we would maintain that neither of
these can ever be in the interests of the patient or her baby).
Information about the numbers of such cases should be publicly
available and easily accessible.
7. A close companion's belief that the patient
would have changed his earlier wish not to survive, or that he
has done so but is unable to convey this to a stranger, should
be persuasive against an earlier declaration by the patient.
8. Similarly, to an offence under section
32 it should be a defence that the person alleged to have concealed
or destroyed an advance directive honestly believed the patient
to have changed his decision. It is not at all difficult to imagine
a situation where a long-time partner might confidently know this
by signs imperceptible to a stranger and difficult to prove, hence
"honestly" rather than "reasonably".
9. The draft bill in its present form encourages
medical killing, euthanasia, of vulnerable patients. The alleged
"safeguards" are worthless.