Care Not Killing (CNK), the UK’s leading anti-euthanasia campaign group, responds to the “misleading and irresponsible” campaign film, published earlier this month by Dignity in Dying.
Dr Gordon Macdonald, Chief Executive of Care Not Killing, commented:
This film is deeply disturbing and it is hugely disappointing that a group which claims to take an evidence-based approach to public policymaking would adopt such underhand scare tactics. The film gives a wholly unrealistic view of what people experience in hospitals and hospices. No wonder it has been strongly criticized by palliative care doctors, nurses and those who provide palliative medicine such as Hospice UK. It does nothing to aid the important debate about how we care for people at the end of their lives, how we support their friends and family, or how we fund this care and should be immediately taken down and an apology issued to all those it has affected.
Care Not Killing strongly supports the comments by Hospice UK in their open letter, which describes the film as ‘misleading and irresponsible’. Their letter goes on to say that, film ‘…plays on peoples anxiety and fear about end of life, and amplifies these in a picture of care that is inaccurate and distressing. There is no clarity as to what is causing such distress to the scripted depiction and the physical presentation of the patient indicates a lack of personal identity or individual care. The short film is, by no means an accurate portrayal of hospice care. It is a misrepresentation that undermines a strong evidence base of expert care delivered by over 200 hospices, care that consistently brings symptoms relief and comfort to patient’s family and carers’. The letter continues to describe the film as ‘sensationalist campaigning’ and says it should be withdrawn."
The letter mirrors the comments made by palliative care doctors, to twitter to say, “I have looked after thousands of dying patients. I have NEVER seen someone die like this. I can’t even work out what symptoms they are attempting to portray. This is base, irresponsible scaremongering”, while another tweeted, “Err…I have witnessed 10000 hospice deaths in my career…and they don’t look like this?”
Dr Macdonald continued: “Policy makers must disregard this shabby and deliberately emotive campaign and look at the evidence. In Oregon, which is often cited as the model of an effective assisted suicide law, the reality is completely different. Safeguards have been eroded and the majority of those ending their lives do so because they fear being a burden on their families or carers. Worryingly some patients have been refused potentially life-saving and life-extending treatments, while being offered the poison to kill themselves.
“While in the Netherlands and Belgium, which allows euthanasia and assisted suicide, laws have been extended from mentally competent terminally ill adults to non-mentally competent adults and even children. Most recently this was highlighted in Belgium by the case of Godelieva De Troyer(64). She was physically healthy, but had a long and well-documented history of mental health problems. In 2012 she was euthanized by the Belgium State without consulting either her son, or the psychiatrist who had cared for her for more than 20 years. That death is now being investigated by the European Court of Human Rights.”
Dr Macdonald concluded:
MPs, MSPs and peers have seen the evidence of how so-called safeguards have been eroded in the tiny number of places that have changed the law to allow assisted suicide and euthanasia - countries like Belgium, the Netherlands and the American states of Oregon and Washington. No wonder they have repeatedly rejected attempts to introduce assisted suicide and euthanasia - more than ten times since 2003 - including in 2015 when the House of Commons voted against changing the law by 330 votes to 118. It also explains why not a single doctors group, or major disability rights organization supports changing the law, including the British Medical Association, the Royal College of General Practitioners, the Royal College of Physicians, the British Geriatric Society and the Association for Palliative Medicine. The current law does not need changing."