For lawyers words are important. In recent weeks, news headlines have rightly focused on the crisis in Europe as thousands of people attempt to move to a continent which they think will offer them a better future.
Are they “migrants” or “refugees” or “asylum seekers”? The choice of words very often depends on your point of view.
The same applies to another important news story which has been side-lined by events in Europe. On September 11th, MPs in the House of Commons debated The Assisted Dying Bill. The name was chosen by those promoting the Bill. Opponents sometimes refer to “The Assisted Suicide Bill”. This disparity of language is because the two terms conjure up different emotional responses.
The bill was an attempt to make it legal for people to decide to end their life and for others to assist in that process. Campaigners for a change in the law say it is inhumane to not let people choose to die when they want to. Opponents are concerned a change in the law would be fundamental shift which would set us on a dangerous course. It is of note that many who campaign for the rights of the elderly and disabled are alarmed by the implications of the draft bill.
The philosophical debate about whether a person should be able to ask others to end their life and what safeguards should be given to all those involved is fascinating and I do not offer an opinion about that.
The immediate issue of concern is the actual draft legislation before Parliament. My view of is it does not contain enough safeguards to provide that the vulnerable will be protected and in that sense it is flawed.
Also the debate throws into sharp relief that worry and fear over the circumstances of our death would be alleviated if we all had a better understanding of end of life care. We would then be better able to articulate a choice which does not involve others ending our life. It is also a compelling argument for more public funding for the hospices where a compassionate alternative is already available; because surely in a civilised society, suicide should not be the most attractive option.