Second Thoughts on Euthanasia

One of Britain's most influential liberal journalists is having second thoughts over her support for 'assisted suicide'. Writing in the Observer, columnist Sonia Sodha revealed that stories hinting at “a lack of safeguards” emerging from Canada had prompted her to rethink her support of a change in the law in the UK.

Canada legalised euthanasia in certain circumstances in 2016, but quickly scrapped the requirement for a person to be terminally ill so that disabled people can now request that a doctor kill them. Growing numbers of shocking cases have emerged as the number killed in this way has soared to more than 10,000 a year. Many vulnerable people are being put to wrongful death in a scandal that is worrying even liberals like Sodha.

In her article, Sonia explains her growing concerns: “On the face of it, assisted dying might sound like a limited shift in the law that carries no risks of Britain ending up like Canada.

“But when you start probing its limits, it quickly becomes evident how difficult it is to draw a distinction between what is and isn’t permitted. There are no higher stakes than ending a life. How do you know someone is giving meaningful consent?”

Acknowledging the difficulty of uncovering coercion, she asked: “What evidentiary standard could there be to say there is no chance of someone’s life being wrongfully ended?”

The columnist also questioned “how timeless consent may be”, as “perceptions of people with life-limiting – even terminal – conditions can shift quite significantly over time”.

Other concerns raised by Sodha included the role of “undiagnosed depression” in those seeking assisted suicide and the difficulty in predicting “how long someone has left to live”.

And there, she added, “lies another danger: we invest far too little in the palliative care needed to ensure that everyone has the most dignified and low-pain death possible”.

Sodha still believes that “some individuals” can benefit from assisted suicide, and admitted it may be “tempting to legislate with those individuals in mind”.

“But”, she concluded, “the more consideration I’ve given it, the more doubts I harbour that the risk of vulnerable individuals suffering a wrongful death as a product of abusive relationships or family pressure can be effectively eliminated.

“For now, that makes it difficult for me to support.”

The high profile change of heart is very welcome, but pro-lifers still face an uphill struggle against proposals which would produce at the end of life the potential for horror to mirror that abortion brings to its start.