Observations Lobby Watch

Care Not Killing

BMJ 2010; 341 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.c7284 (Published 22 December 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;341:c7284
  1. Jane Cassidy, freelance journalist
  1. janecassi2{at}googlemail.com

Who are they?

Care Not Killing is an alliance of around 50 groups, including faith based and pro-life organisations, opposed to legalising euthanasia or physician assisted suicide. Its campaign director, Peter Saunders, is a former surgeon and chief executive of the Christian Medical Fellowship.

Members include the Association for Palliative Medicine, the UK Disabled People’s Council, the Royal Association for Disability and Rehabilitation (RADAR), the Christian Medical Fellowship, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, the Church of England, and the Medical Ethics Alliance.

Most recently it fought against the End of Life Assistance (Scotland) Bill, which was heavily defeated in the Scottish parliament in December (BMJ 2010;341:c6986 doi:10.1136/bmj.c6986). Its postcard campaign was condemned as “unworthy and cheap” and “a catalogue of linguistic distortions” by the bill’s proposer, Margo MacDonald. The postcards, distributed through churches, caused alarm among frail, elderly, and disabled people, said the independent MSP. They stated that, if successful, the bill would put large numbers of sick or disabled Scottish people at risk, making them and elderly people feel a burden.

“What its authors see as a right to die will become a duty to die,” said the postcards, which claimed that the bill was contrary to good medical practice and its safeguards illusory.

Ms MacDonald, who has Parkinson’s disease, wants the right to end her own life, arguing that palliative care is not always effective and that dying people should be given choices. No doctor would have had to take part in assisted suicide as a result of the bill if doing so was against their conscience or moral belief, she said.

Under the proposed legislation anyone wanting help to end their life would have had to submit two formal requests to a medical practitioner at least 15 days apart and to have these approved on psychiatric advice. Patients who found life intolerable must have been diagnosed as terminally ill or be permanently physically incapacitated to such an extent that they were unable to live independently.

What agenda do they have?

Care Not Killing seeks to attract support from healthcare professionals, allied health services, and others opposed to euthanasia.

Promoting more and better palliative care is one of the alliance’s three main aims. The others are to influence public opinion and to ensure that existing laws against euthanasia and assisted suicide are not weakened or repealed during the lifetime of the current parliament.

It was set up in 2006 to counter the pro-euthanasia lobby and to combat Joel Joffe’s Assisted Dying for the Terminally Ill Bill, which was defeated. In the same year the Voluntary Euthanasia Society relaunched as Dignity in Dying; and the retired doctor Anne Turner (see Obituary, BMJ 2006;332:306, doi:10.1136/bmj.332.7536.306), who had a debilitating disease, travelled to the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland to end her life. Dr Turner publicised her case in the hope of helping win support for Lord Joffe’s bill.

How influential are they?

The alliance claims that more than 20 000 people signed their postcards opposing the proposed Scottish law, making it the biggest campaign response since the Scottish parliament was established. It also claimed a major role in defeating the Joffe bill, presenting a protest petition signed by more than 100 000 people opposing the legislation to 10 Downing Street.

It has now turned its attention to the former lord chancellor Charles Falconer’s Commission on Assisted Dying (BMJ 2010;341:c6622, doi:10.1136/bmj.c6622), though turning down an invitation to give evidence. Funding from Dignity in Dying’s patron, Terry Pratchett, is among their arguments against the commission, which they accuse of lacking independence.

Where do they get their money from?

It is funded by donations from supporters, who can become members.


Cite this as: BMJ 2010;341:c7284