10 tips for talking about v.e.   -  Colin Gavaghan

Whether you are speaking to the media, to your M.P., or to a friend or relative, there are a few concise phrases and arguments which you may wish to have at your disposal - and a few you’d be well advised to avoid.

1. Don’t talk about other people being ‘burdens on society’. VESS believes in giving people control over their lives, and their deaths. V.e. and assisted suicide are not solutions to problems of overpopulation, an ageing population or NHS funding, and any suggestion that they could be used for these purposes is likely to terrify or appall a great many people.

2. Do make it clear that, for VESS, what matters  in end-of-life decisions are the wishes of the individual, and his freedom to choose the timing and manner of his death.

3. Don’t attack the religious beliefs of others. Research has consistently shown that most of those who describe themselves as religious, like the population as a whole, support right-to-die reforms. We have nothing to gain, and a lot to lose, by forcing them to choose between their church and their personal beliefs.

4. Do show respect for the beliefs of others, or at least their right to hold those beliefs, while stressing our opposition to the use the law to impose their beliefs on everyone else.

5. Don’t talk about p.v.s. patients as being ‘just vegetables.’ Expressions like this can be offensive to some, and can be used by our opponents to suggest that v.e. supporters have no respect for human life.

6. Do stress that the dignity and previous wishes of the unconscious or p.v.s. patient are absolutely central to our concerns.

7. Don’t link the case for v.e. to that in favour of, for example, abortion. While some arguments are common to both debates, there are substantial differences. And abortion is, on the whole, a much more divisive issue.

8. Do emphasize our support for greater choice in end of life decisions generally. V.e. cannot be said to be choice in the true sense if there are no other options open to the incurable patient, and high quality palliative care must be available for those who wish to fight on to the very last.

9. Don’t ridicule or play down serious concerns about v.e. Many sensible and tolerant people have genuine reservations about some of the consequences of legalization, and it is important to distinguish them from the fanatics whose only concern is the universal imposition of a minority morality.

10. Do recognize that carefully established checks and safeguards would absolutely have to accompany any change in the law. We at VESS are every bit as horrified by the prospect of legalized v.e. being abused as are the ‘pro-Lifers’, but firmly believe that sensible discussion and forward planning would avoid this.