Jacqueline Laing's blog

Alfie Evans: Liberty, Institutional Power and Family Life

All the powers of the British state are now lined up against the life of little Alfie Evans. Police officers are deployed outside Alder Hey Hospital and uniformed police secure the room in which Alfie lies.

Parliament overwhelmingly rejects assisted suicide - 330 votes to 118

Assisted suicide was last discussed in the Commons in 1997. The Marris Bill’s parliamentary drubbing yesterday suggests that the matter should rest for as many years again. Whether it does so, given the determination of the euthanasia lobby to introduce medically assisted death, is another matter. Euthanasia was rejected by the House of Lords in 1936. Voluntary Euthanasia (Legislation) Bill 1936 was vetoed in Britain while Germany at the same time introduced Aktion T4, the Nazi euthanasia programme. While the UK has overwhelmingly rejected the legislation, California, as the sun set on World Suicide Prevention Day and heedless of the irony, voted in favour of assisted suicide. So much for the lofty verbiage of suicide prevention then! Against this international and historical backdrop, it seems the British House of Commons still takes seriously, at least on the face of it, the idea of protecting the vulnerable.

Three-Parent Children, Germ-line Gene Manipulation and Designer Humans

Today's vote in Parliament in favour of allowing three parent children makes the UK the first country to cross internationally respected bioethical red lines. It does so first by allowing the creation of human beings using DNA from three human beings and secondly, by opening the door to germ-line gene modification. By altering the very make-up of the human species, the technique provokes a global race to manufacture the bio-characteristics of the human person by germ-line gene manipulation.

Rethinking Medical Homicide

Perhaps in part because of the dwindling birth rates and a steadily ageing and costly population it is customary now in Britain for the subject of active euthanasia to be revisited every year. Charles (Lord) Falconer is at it again seeking to legalise medical complicity in homicide. The subject comes before parliament on Friday. Notwithstanding the horrific findings of widespread non-consensual sedation and dehydration in UK's hospitals, hospices and care homes and the Neuberger Review confirming the catastrophe, Falconer is seeking to open up new ways of eliminating the disabled, depressed, old and vulnerable.

Medical Experimentation on the Dying

Medical practitioners in the UK will be given considerable freedom to experiment on patients if the new Medical Innovation Bill becomes law. While press coverage trumpets the advantages to British medical research of experimenting on the dying, we should not be seduced by the hype. The draft bill offers few if any concrete restraints on medical experimentation on patients whether terminally ill or otherwise. On the contrary, the proposed legislation invites widespread, unaccountable, degrading and inhuman treatment.

Belgium in the Grip of Suicide

What happens when a suicidal vision grips a nation? First, the young are eliminated. In 2013 the total fertility rate of Belgium was 1.65 - nowhere near the 2.1 rate needed for population replacement. The bulk of the births was supplied by non-native Belgians in any case.

Deadly Guidance

The Leadership Alliance for the Care of Dying People (LACDP) professes to be involved in public engagement on a proposed substitute for the UK's Liverpool Care Pathway. Families of victims who died on the pathway and many who made submissions to the Neuberger Review have been omitted from its trumpeted 'public engagement exercise'. This is, perhaps, unsurprising. The LACDP is led by longtime admirer of the Liverpool Care Pathway, Dr Bee Wee.

A Serious Conflict of Interest and the Death Pathway Review

Baroness Julia Neuberger was chair of the 2012-13 Review into the Liverpool Care Pathway. The Review was ordered after it emerged, thanks to some revealing Freedom of Information Act requests, that hundreds of thousands of people had died on the financially incentivized Pathway after 2008 when the strategy to increase numbers of patients dying on the Pathway was announced.

On the Function and Purpose of an Inquest

Neither justice nor public confidence has been served by the costly three month inquest into Mark Duggan’s death. Part of the problem is that the inquest has been used as the vehicle for an examination of matters more appropriate, at least in cases like these, to the criminal process. The inquest has a function that is in part procedural: to permit appropriate matters to be heard in a criminal court. What we have now is a finding that Duggan though unarmed was not unlawfully killed by the police who shot him.

Lethal Blindness

In October 2012, journalistic initiative elicited some horrific facts about what has come to be known in the UK as the Death Pathway (or Liverpool Care Pathway). Until then, many medical professionals had waxed lyrical about Britain's sedation-dehydration regime. International conferences were run extolling the programme. Medical staff warmly congratulated one another on its use. It looked as though the Pathway was destined for global implementation. Although thousands of families had experienced enormous grief over its use, little attention was paid to them.


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