Moves to legalise assisted suicide in Britain are a threat to the disabled during a time of economic hardship, says Baroness Campbell of Surbiton, a disabled peer. She told the London Telegraph that it was “a dangerous time” to consider to consider changes to legislation when people on welfare were being described as scroungers who are a burden on society.
Relaxing the law on assisted suicide would amount to an open invitation for relatives or carers to pressure people with disabilities to do away with their lives, she said.
The British House of Lords is currently debating the guidelines on prosecuting people who help loved ones to commit suicide. Baroness Campbell, who has suffered from a serious degenerative illness since childhood, is strongly opposed to altering the guidelines to mitigate penalties if the deceased had suffered from a disability.
“Terminally ill and disabled people are in a worse position today than was the case five years ago. National economic instability means that public support services are under more pressure than ever. That has hardened public attitudes towards progressive illnesses, old age and disability.
“Words such as ‘burden’, ‘scrounger’ and ‘demographic time bomb’ come to mind, and hate crime figures in relation to vulnerable people have increased dramatically.
“This is a dangerous time to consider facilitating assistance with suicide for those who most need our help and support. “It is not only dangerous for those who may see suicide as their only option, but can be tempting for those who would benefit from their absence.”
She also commented on recent changes in the law in Belgium which will permit the euthanasia of children.
“Belgium has recently extended its law on euthanasia to include terminally ill and disabled children. That is not a future I want for our children or the most vulnerable, and this House has made it clear that it shares that view.”
Baroness Campbell of Surbiton, or just Jane, as she prefers to be called, is a remarkable woman who has triumphed over physical disability, discrimination and many personal tragedies. On her website she states: “If you said to me that I could be born tomorrow without my impairment I would say no thanks. I am me because of my impairment, not despite it.”
She was born in 1959 and grew up with spinal muscular atrophy, a genetic illness which confined her to a wheelchair. She struggled to get an education, but eventually she obtained a Master’s degree in political history, two honorary doctorates, a job in local government, and fame as a disability activist. In 2007 she was appointed a crossbench (independent) peer in the House of Lords. In this video she gives an insight into her philosophy of life.