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“Doctors Are Very Poor at Predicting When People Will Die”

Doctors Are Very Poor at Predicting When People Will Die”

A Lord’s Very Personal Reason for Opposing Assisted Dying

Lord Curry of Kirkharle relayed a very personal account of why he stands in opposition to Baroness Meacher’s Assisted Dying bill during the debate on 25 October.  He concludes by quoting Lord Sheikh’s apt truism.

He said,

“My Lords, I, too, am deeply concerned about this Bill and oppose it. Let me give yet another very personal insight into why I am concerned. Eight years ago, my wife and I held the hands of our daughter, aged 42, who had a learning disability, while she passed from time into eternity. She breathed her last while we held her hands. It was a very emotional and precious moment for us. It was not an experience that one ever envisages when bringing a child into the world.

“Six years before that, she was very ill with pneumonia and other complications and was not expected to survive. We sat with her day and night as she struggled and battled to live. The medical staff had done what they could. Nothing more could be done. It was extremely distressing and we were torn between wishing for her to pull through and thinking that perhaps the best solution might be for her to slip quietly away so that her pain and suffering could be over.

“If someone at that time had offered an assisted dying—assisted suicide—option, I firmly believe that in our heightened emotional state, not thinking rationally, we may have been tempted to agree to her premature death. Had we done that, it would have troubled us for the rest of our lives.

“Remarkably, she pulled through. It was a long, hard slog, but she enriched our lives for another six years, enjoyed her own life and continued to influence hundreds of people during that time. What a tragedy it would have been had her life been cut short six years too early. That is exactly what will happen if this Bill is supported. There will be a few in the first year and a few hundred in future years who feel that they have become a burden on their families and society and will be killed off prematurely because it will become the simple, easy option.

“I fear that this country will become a society that terminates the lives of its old people and its sick and disabled people because they fear they are being a burden to their loved ones and because of the time and the cost of their care. I have the same letter that the noble Lord, Lord Sheikh, referred to, where a doctor wrote very eloquently. I want to repeat that phrase: “Doctors are very poor at predicting when people will die.”

“If someone at that time had offered an assisted dying—assisted suicide—option, I firmly believe that in our heightened emotional state, not thinking rationally, we may have been tempted to agree to her premature death. Had we done that, it would have troubled us for the rest of our lives.

“Remarkably, she pulled through. It was a long, hard slog, but she enriched our lives for another six years, enjoyed her own life and continued to influence hundreds of people during that time. What a tragedy it would have been had her life been cut short six years too early. That is exactly what will happen if this Bill is supported. There will be a few in the first year and a few hundred in future years who feel that they have become a burden on their families and society and will be killed off prematurely because it will become the simple, easy option.

“I fear that this country will become a society that terminates the lives of its old people and its sick and disabled people because they fear they are being a burden to their loved ones and because of the time and the cost of their care. I have the same letter that the noble Lord, Lord Sheikh, referred to, where a doctor wrote very eloquently. I want to repeat that phrase: “Doctors are very poor at predicting when people will die.”

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