Nicky Chapman: Doctors do not always make the right diagnosis

From the crossbench peer's maiden speech in the House of Lords on the Mental Capacity Bill
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The Independent Online

I have grave concerns about [the Mental Capacity Bill]. People are born and they die. These are the only two certainties in life. I have no doubt of the good intentions around the introduction of this Bill, but we must not lose the basic premise of a right to live in order to allow people the right to die.

I have grave concerns about [the Mental Capacity Bill]. People are born and they die. These are the only two certainties in life. I have no doubt of the good intentions around the introduction of this Bill, but we must not lose the basic premise of a right to live in order to allow people the right to die.

Although I can accept some of the arguments for sections of this Bill, I believe it is virtually impossible for legislation to allow this in a way that is not open to the abuse of a licence to kill.

Assessment of best interest and burden should not be medical model based and should not focus only on the negative aspects of a person's condition. A situation that appears intolerable to people who are fit and well may be more than outweighed by the positive experiences of the patient.

They have family and friends, relationships that are part of them being a rounded individual and not just a condition or impairment. I believe there is a clear line between increasing pain control medication that may hasten death, and withdrawing support, causing death. That line is the quality of life of the patient, however little life remains.

At this point, I should declare an interest. If this Bill had been passed 43 years ago, I would not be here. My parents were told I would be blind, deaf, unable to communicate and have no noticeable mental function. Doctors and practitioners do get it wrong.

We need to ensure people have the opportunity to prove the medics wrong. 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have been two or three occasions after childhood where, from a purely medical perspective, treatment could have been withdrawn from me.

This Bill ignores the fact people have a basic right to live, and this issue cannot and must not be ignored. As it stands, this Bill does not keep people safe.

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