Is it possible to create a clear, immovable boundary between who should be eligible for assisted death and who is not?

The evidence suggests not. Our current laws protect all human life equally. No-one’s life is treated under law as more or less valuable because of their wealth, ethnicity, health, or for any other reason.

Legalising euthanasia and assisted suicide would introduce inequality, treating some lives as though they don’t deserve the same protection. These would be the lives of the sick, the disabled, and others who are vulnerable. Everyone in this group would be marked by their medical condition so that the law views their life as less worthy of protection than others, regardless of how they want to be seen or valued.

Once such a distinction in society has been established, allowing assistance to die as a “human right” for some, there is no logical argument to prevent this “right” from expanding to other categories of people who are also suffering in some way and want to be allowed assistance to die. Introducing this new classification of person through the End of Life Choice Act will, over time, almost certainly see legal challenges to expand the eligibility criteria (as seen in almost every jurisdiction that allows assisted dying), leading to the unnatural deaths of people we don’t intend as we consider this now.

As retired English Judge Elizabeth Butler-Sloss has said:[1]

Laws, like nation states, are more secure when their boundaries rest on natural frontiers. The law that we have rests on just such a frontier—it rests on the principle that involving ourselves in deliberately bringing about the death of others, for whatever reason, is unacceptable behaviour. To create exceptions, based on arbitrary criteria such as terminal illness or mental capacity, is to create lines in the sand, easily crossed and hard to defend. The law is there to protect us. We tinker with it at our peril.


[1] Quoted in: J Bingham, “We tinker with assisted suicide laws at our peril,” (Telegraph, 15 December 2013).

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