95.Memorandum from the Society for the
Protection of Unborn Children, Kensington and Chelsea Branch (MIB
1. The 123 lay, and 35 clergy, SPUC members
in Kensington and Chelsea are very concerned about the threat
of legalised euthanasia by omission today. Thirty of us went to
the House of Commons in April 2000 to ask our MP Michael Portillo
to support Mrs Ann Winterton's "Medical Treatment (Prevention
of euthanasia) " Bill. I submitted some four A4 pages
upon the consultation paper "Making Decisions" to
the Lord Chancellor's department, in July 2002. SPUC members in
Kensington and Chelsea include the founder of the group "Nurses
opposed to euthanasia", whose statement of aims I enclose,
the Secretary of "Against Legalised Euthanasia Research and
Teaching", a former borough councillor, and a member of the
"Association of Lawyers for the Defence of the Unborn".
2. The pressure to allow patients to be
killed in hospitals owes much to 6,000,000 babies killed by legal
abortion since 1967. There are fewer people to pay for and undertake
the care of the elderly and ill. I believe the evil of abortion
should not lead to the legalising of euthanasia.
3. Alas, euthanasia by omission has happened
by court order: several patients have died thus in England and
Scotland since Tony Bland was starved to death in 1993, and every
incapacitated patient is threatened. I disbelieve the Government's
stated opposition to euthanasia, referring only to active euthanasia.
To kill a patient by starvation and dehydration is euthanasia,
and I submit this is the object of certain proposals in the Government's
draft Mental Incapacity Bill. I helped care for my great-aunt
who suffered mental incapacity, and for my grandmother who suffered
recurring depression, and in the light of this experience I oppose
legalising euthanasia, absolutely. While depressed, my grandmother
was inconsolably miserable, and she told me how she sometimes
thought of suicide. Notwithstanding, we cared for her until she
died naturally. To have starved her to death would have been a
terrible denial of a family's duty of care. It is always, everywhere
and without exception wrong to kill patients, however emotionally
hurtful their condition, for to do so means they are deemed to
have only a qualified right to life.
4. Of course the draft Mental Incapacity
Bill follows years of consideration. The Law Commission began
six years of consultation upon mental incapacity in 1989, and
the Government's Green Paper of 1997 "Who Decides",
and its policy statement of 1999 "Making Decisions"
are important. I suggest, the intensive pressure to legalise euthanasia
from certain quarters has influenced this Bill. Lord Filkin, Minister
of State for Constitutional Affairs, launched the Bill stating
it would create a "framework" for the mentally incapacitated,
enabIing people to "plan ahead for a possible incapacity"
by creating a "Lasting Power of Attorney". I ask you
to consider the serious danger that, in order to minimise the
cost of incapacitated peopleor even to benefit from their
estateAttorneys may order doctors to starve them. My great-aunt's
incapacity was excruciatingshe said the same thing up to
50 times over, was sometimes incontinent, and spoke of her dead
brother and sisters as if alive. She had no such Attorney as the
Government proposes, and her family and I cared for her until
5. The draft Mental Incapacity Bill defines
patients' best interests in a seriously deficient way. In 2000,
Ms Yvette Cooper, then Minister for Health, clearly implied continued
life is not always beneficial to patients, in a reply to my MP
Michael Portillo writing on my behalf. She considered that MrsWinterton's
"Medical Treatment (Prevention of euthanasia)" Bill
2000 ". . . might require artificial nutrition and hydration
to be continued even when no longer of benefit to the patient"
(my emphasis). The Bill pursues this idea, by considering best
interests as being defined by the ascertainable "wishes and
feelings" of the incapacitated individual. The Bill omits
any reference to such basic principles as sustaining life and
promoting health, which are acknowledged by doctors as the objects
they pursue, and endorsed in legal judgements as among best interests.
I submit patients' best interests must include receiving food
and drinkby tube, or fork whilst capable of digestion,
and this redefinition aims to legalise killing people, on grounds
like "well, he wouldn't want to go on living like this"
(notably, in the case of Tony Bland: he was killed by dehydration
without ever having indicated his wishes before or after he was
injured). My grandmother thought of suicide while depressed, and
my great-aunt suffered great distress while incapacitated, but
I and my family did not starve them.
6. I submit that the draft Mental Incapacity
Bill will undermine the foundations of medical morals, by giving
statutory force to advance decisions to refuse treatment, and
treating food and drink as medical treatment. It is ludicrous
that I, or any human being, should need a doctor's order to eat
and drink, yet the bill could deliver me to starvation if incapacitated,
by considering tube feeding as medical treatment. I draw to your
attention aim no. 4 of the group "Nurses opposed to euthanasia":
"To challenge the increasingly accepted belief that nutrition
and hydration constitute medical treatment, considering assisted
nutrition, in almost every case as a basic necessity of care,
when required, appropriate and possible". I believe medicine
should follow the precept "thou shalt not kill, but needs
not strive officiously to keep alive", and the Bill represents
an appalling attack on this principle. It breaks the Government's
undertaking not to legislate on advance decisions (Lord Hunt of
Kings Heath, House of Lords website, 3 February 2000), and will
make it impossible for anyone, once incapable, to revoke a living
will they made in the past. In this context, we should remember
that individuals have recovered from so-called Persistent Vegetative
Stateand resumed active life!and incorrect diagnoses
have been made, such as the case of Marian Sallery. I recall neither
my grandmother nor my great-aunt made an advance directiveand
a very worrying point in leaflet 6 of the Government's consultation
paper "Making Decisions" was its emphasis on
patient autonomy to the exclusion of health and life, leaving
no room to continue food and drink and implying that a patient
without a living will should be starved to death.
7. Finally, the draft Mental Incapacity
Bill transfers the High Court's inherent power over "serious
healthcare cases" to the Court of Protection. Its proposed
authority over all areas of decision-making would include power
to cut off food and drink from incapacitated people, denying the
name "Protection". By the way, my incapacitated great-aunt
was married to a High Court judge, Sir Roualeyn Cumming-Bruce,
and he cared for her unstintingly.
8. I submit: the Government's conduct is
extremely unhelpful and only likely to bring it into disrepute,
in setting a deadline of Monday 1 September for responses to the
draft Mental Incapacity Bill. The Government has shown its disregard
for public debate and for human life before. In December 2000,
a statutory instrument allowing so-called therapeutic cloning
that is, creating human beings to cannibalise them for researchwas
rushed through Parliament. The then Leader of the House of Commons,
Margaret Beckett had promised long-term debate upon human cloning,
in November 2000, just as Lord Hunt undertook not to legislate
on advance decisions in February 2000. The Government now proposes
to Parliament a bill allowing people to be killed in hospitals,
setting a deadline for submissions far too short to allow many
individuals and groups deeply concerned by this issue, to respond.
This conduct by Tony Blair's Government, so contemptuous of due
Parliamentary procedure, is reminiscent of Margaret Thatcher's
hubris after her third election victory.
9. Therefore, I ask you to safeguard the
elderly and ill by resisting the proposals in the draft Mental
I copy this letter to my MP Mr Portillo, who
wrote in a letter to me in May 2001, concerning his voting intentions
in the present Parliament: "I am not in favour of euthanasia.
People who are old or ill have the right to live free from fear,
and confident that they will be treated ethically."
Nurses opposed to Euthanasia
"FIRST DO NO HARM"
1. To be prepared to protect patients from
people/practices which are aimed at killing them.
2. To maintain the historical nursing duty
of care and respect for people, who may or may not be able to
speak for themselves.
3. To offer a network of support and encouragement
to nurses concerned about the threat to life of patients in their
4. To challenge the increasingly accepted
belief that nutrition and hydration constitute medical treatment,
considering assisted nutrition, in almost every case as a basic
necessity of care, when required, appropriate and possible.
5. To continue the tradition and maintain
the right of nurses to act as the patient's advocate with support
from the profession.
6. To achieve an addition to the Nursing
Code of Professional Conduct
to protect nurses from being forced or required to carry out any
clinical orders/decisions which compromise the nurse's duty of
care, patient safety and physical and/or mental well-being.
7. To work against the threat of legalised
euthanasia and promote humane, compassionate care alternatives.
8. To raise awareness of the UKCC Nursing
Code of Professional Conduct in relation to respect for people's
rights in relation to ethical/religious beliefs.
9 Florence Nightingale: Notes on Nursing (Hospitals)
(1863), cf The Hippocratic Oath. Back
United Kingdom Central Council for Nursing, Midwifery and Health
Visiting, Code of professional Conduct. Back