Disabled peer condemns 'euthanasia' Bill

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A bill which critics claim would legalise euthanasia through the back door was dealt a blow last night after a disabled peer warned its introduction could have led to her being denied life-saving treatment.

Baroness Chapman, who suffers from brittle bone disease, said that the Government's proposals could become a "licence to kill" and would "not keep people safe". Speaking for her first time in the Lords since being made a peer last year, Lady Chapman said: "My Lords, I feel I should declare an interest. If this bill had been passed 43 years ago, I would not be here."

Lady Chapman, who uses a wheelchair, expressed "grave concerns" about the Bill and added that "although protected from this Bill as a child, there have been two or three occasions after childhood where, from a purely medical perspective, treatment could have been withdrawn from me."

She said that the Mental Capacity Bill, which allows a person to nominate someone else to make medical decisions on their behalf if they become too ill to communicate themselves, "ignores the fact people have a basic right to live".

Lady Chapman said last night that her parents were told that when she was born she "would be blind, deaf, unable to communicate and have no noticeable mental function. She added: "We need to ensure people have the opportunity to prove the medics wrong."

Ministers reassured Parliament that the Bill would not legalise euthanasia but would alleviate suffering or allow action to be taken if someone were in an irreversible coma. But last year a group of Labour MPs joined Conservatives in voting against it.

But Christian groups and MPs have warned that the Bill could lead to food and fluids being withdrawn from the very ill and to "killing by omission".

The independent peer argued that life and death decisions must not be based solely on medical data. She said what may appear "intolerable" to doctors, friends and family may not be to a patient.

"Although I can accept some of the arguments for sections of this Bill, it is virtually impossible for legislation to allow this in a way that is not open to the abuse of a licence to kill," she said. "Assessment of best interest should not focus only on the negative aspects of a person's condition."

Lady Chapman said ill and disabled people have "family and friends, relationships that are part of them being a rounded individual and not just a condition or impairment".

She said there was "a clear line between increasing pain control medication that may hasten death, and withdrawing support causing death."

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