Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Assisted suicide non-prosecution threatens vulnerable, says disabled woman

London, 26 May 2010 - A decision not to prosecute a man who assisted his wife's suicide has been criticised by a previously suicidal disabled woman.

Alison Davis, who represents disabled people as national co-ordinator of the No Less Human group, was responding to the decision by the Crown Prosecution Service not to prosecute Michael Bateman over the death of his wife Margaret.

Miss Davis said: "This case makes clear what I suspected when the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP)'s guidelines were first announced: that the killing of disabled or ill people would continue to go unpunished, but that the situation would further threaten the lives of sick and disabled people. 
"The killing of Mrs Margaret Bateman by her husband Michael had particular personal resonance for me. Some years ago I too had a settled wish to die, and actually took steps to end my life. I was saved by my friends who, unlike Mr Bateman, refused to accept that I was right to think my life had no value and was better ended.  And in turn, my friends were helped in refusing to accede to my request for help to die by the fact that such an action was then against the law.

"In the Bateman case, punishment was ruled "against the public interest" because Mrs Bateman had had 'chronic pain for decades' and 'a clear and settled wish to die'. At the time when I wanted to end my life, I also had chronic pain such that it was close to being unbearable, and I wanted to die for over ten years. I also had severe disabling conditions and used a wheelchair full-time. These factors combined would have served to ensure that, had the DPP's guidelines been in place then, anyone aiding my death would have gone unpunished.

"Today I still have severe disabling conditions, and continue to be a full-time wheelchair user. I still have extremely severe pain, which is not well controlled, even with morphine. I changed my mind about wanting to die because my friends helped  me, over a long period of time, to realise that my life did have value, and that I could help others despite, or perhaps because, of my own suffering. They were assisted and encouraged by a law that was on the side of life.

"The Bateman case shows that the DPP's guidelines, and the actions of the CPS with his approval, will in fact have the effect of encouraging families or friends to kill so-called 'loved ones' and ensuring that suffering people like Mrs Bateman don't get the kind of help and support I had to continue living. It will mean that more disabled people will be killed out of misplaced 'compassion' and it will continue the pretence that 'courage' lies in killing suffering people, rather than in helping them to live", concluded Miss Davis.

No Less Human is a group within SPUC Pro-Life

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