Dignity not dogma

Why Humanists support the case for assisted dying, for publication Barking and Dagenham Post 24.7.19

The harrowing case of Paul Lamb again puts assisted dying under the spotlight. Paul’s mind is sharp, but his body is paralysed from the neck down. He is in constant pain.  He simply wants the right to end his life at a time of his own choosing. He’s incapable of acting without help. But helping him would be a serious offence under the 1961 Suicide Act. Paul has asked the High Court to rule that this law is incompatible with his human rights. The decision is expected around September.

Humanists UK are supporting Paul’s case. Assisted dying is one of many areas where for centuries religious doctrine has been used to try and dictate how we live, or die.  The belief that suicide is itself a ‘sin’ was embodied in the common law crime of ‘attempted self-murder,’ only abolished in 1961. Prosecutions were frequent, and often led to punishment rather than sympathy.

Humanists believe ‘divine will’ and religious dogma have no relevance to cases such as Paul’s.  The issues should be determined by reason, justice and compassion. Denying Paul the choice of when to bring his daily incurable torment to an end flies in the face of all three. It is irrational, unfair and cruel. Of course any change must have effective stringent safeguards built in. Progressive jurisdictions around the world have now passed laws permitting assisted dying which address these concerns. For Paul’s peace of mind and dignity, and for others suffering like him, we must follow suit.

Paul Kaufman
Chair East London Humanists

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