People suffering from depression may opt for assisted suicide under a new Bill debated in Parliament next week, a past president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists has said.
Following the release of a YouGov poll, indicating 69 per cent support for legalising assisted suicide for the terminally ill, Baroness Sheila Hollins warned: “In my own field of mental health, I know from experience that there are real difficulties in assessing mental capacity, and also that most doctors have difficulty recognising depression in terminally ill people despite the fact that it is known to be very common.
“Would we really be happy for people who are depressed to be offered assisted suicide instead of treating their depression? Lord Falconer’s Assisted Dying Bill does not try to address even the most obvious safeguarding questions. I’m sorry but that just won’t do.”
Lord Falconer’s Assisted Dying Bill will be debated in the House of Lords next Friday. Baroness Hollins, who is a practising Catholic, told The Catholic Herald that legislators should be wary of following opinion polls given the complexity of the issue.
She said: “It is easy for us, when asked whether the law should be changed, to say that we agree. But what is being proposed in this case is literally a life-or-death matter. It’s about licensing doctors to supply lethal drugs to terminally ill people to enable them to commit suicide. They would have to prepare and take the drugs themselves and in some cases the medication wouldn’t actually work and might lead to complications.
“It’s a very complex issue, raising questions about the law, medical practice, mental health and society – to name but a few. We would need more than opinion polls to take a decision of that gravity.
“The reality is that the law that we have works well and there have been few breaches of it and even fewer prosecutions. The majority of British doctors and psychiatrists do not believe assisting patients’ suicides is a proper part of clinical practice and the evidence from the handful of jurisdictions around the world that have gone down the ‘assisted dying’ road is far from reassuring.”
For an extended version of this report, read this week’s print edition of The Catholic Herald. Paper out on Friday.