89.Memorandum from the Reverend Patrick
Tansey (MIB 130)
First, I should like to state my concern that
this Bill, which has good points, is being discussed so rapidly
and with a closure date for submissions being set for 1 September
of this year. I should be most grateful to know why the haste,
especially during the holiday period? I have only recently returned
For some time I have been following the issues
dealt with in this Bill, especially, in my last parish, with the
assistance of Dr Julian Lewis MP. In spite of numerous letters
to the Lord Chancellor's Office, he was unable to receive any
clear statement on matters related to Euthanasia by Omission,
namely the withdrawal of food and fluid from mentally incapacitated
patients with the purpose of ensuring death. As you will realise,
this is totally separate from the question of the withdrawal of
food and fluid if distress is being caused to the patient.
It is, therefore, essential that any proposed
legislation include a clause making illegal the withdrawal of
food and fluid with the purpose of causing death. Such a clause
would not prevent the withdrawal of food and fluid in the case
of distress, if clearly framed.
As one who has been a chaplain to a centre for
learning disabilities for several years, I feel that definition
of the patient's best interests in any legislation needs to be
clear. My understanding is that the present wording is so vague
in the area of medical criteria that the best interests of the
vulnerable in relation to medical care are not adequately safeguarded.
There is also, I believe, a need for some clear
appeal system in relation to Lasting Powers of Attorney, where
a dispute concerning questionable medical treatment arises. This
is one reason why this Bill deserves a more considered approach
than it appears Government is giving it.
I recall Dr Lewis asking in one letter if, following
a road accident, a doctor would be obliged, as the result of a
"Living Will", not to give normally accepted medical
help to an injured person in a serious condition. The question
was not answered.
The whole legal status of "Living Wills"
demands clear definition in any legislation, and a House of Lords
Select Committee has warned of the use of Statute Law in this
area. This area needs to be considered most carefully.
You will realise that I have grave concerns
in relation to aspects of a Bill which could be of great value,
but could also create a legal and moral nightmare for lawyers
and medical personnelto say nothing of family and friends
of the incapacitated person!