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MPs oppose mercy killing

PUBLISHED: 16:14 15 June 2002 | UPDATED: 12:07 03 March 2010

A CROSS party group of Parliamentarians, headed by Suffolk Coastal MP John Gummer, has called on the Government to oppose euthanasia and introduce laws to outlaw the withdrawal of food and fluids from patients with the purpose of ending life.

A CROSS party group of Parliamentarians, headed by Suffolk Coastal MP John Gummer, has called on the Government to oppose euthanasia and introduce laws to outlaw the withdrawal of food and fluids from patients with the purpose of ending life.

The MPs and peers fear that non-voluntary euthanasia by omission, against the wishes of family and patients, could end up becoming legal.

They are supporting a national petition organised by the group Right to Life, which points out that the European Court of Human Rights ruled in the Diane Pretty case that euthanasia by commission contravenes the European Convention of Human Rights, even when requested by the patient.

However, a document circulated by the Lord Chancellor Lord Irvine seeks to extend medical killing by omission, including the withdrawal of assisted food and fluid from patients, in order to end their lives.

Mr Gummer said yesterday: "The Court of Protection may handle financial and similar problems of the mentally incapacitated.

"However, the Lord Chancellor's Department envisages the powers of the Court of Protection ultimately assuming jurisdiction over health care and from the wording of the consultation document, it could be used to extend medical killing and there is little doubt could become extremely dangerous."

Mr Gummer added: "The Lord Chancellor and his advisers obviously accept assisted food and fluid as `treatment' and not as basic care or as a basic right and no account is taken of the fact that withdrawal means causing death by dehydration and starvation.

"The fact that those adjudicating in the Court of Protection could be required to rule that the lives of patients may be ended by the withdrawal of assisted nutrition and hydration – with or without their previous agreement – means that no lawyer with ethical objections to euthanasia by omission, including non-voluntary euthanasia, could be appointed."

Such bias could lead to the Court of Protection being dubbed `Court of Destruction,' said the Tory MP.

Among those supporting Mr Gummer and the Right to Life petition include Lord Alton of Liverpool (Liberal Democrat), Labour MPs Helen Clark (Peterborough), and Kerry Pollard (St Albans), Tory MPs Sir Brian Mawhinney (Cambridgeshire North-East), David Amess (Southend West), and Sir Teddy Taylor (Rochford & Southend East), and other MPs from the Tory, Labour, Liberal Democrat, Ulster Unionist and Democratic Unionist benches.

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