July 7, 2022

Young British rugby player chooses assisted suicide in Zurich

UK controversy could lead to test case

Daniel JamesBritish
police are investigating how a young rugby player died with the help
of Dignitas, the Swiss assisted suicide group in September. Daniel
James, who became a quadriplegic last year, was only 23. His parents
escorted him to Zurich after yield to his insistent pleas for death.
He may have been the 100th Briton to die in facilities organised by
Dignitas.

The
case has caused consternation in the UK, probably because of Daniel’s
youth and tragic story. A potential professional who had represented
England under-16s, he dislocated his spine in a scrum.

Julie
James, Daniel’s mother, was indignant that police had responded to
an anonymous tip-off. In a website posting, she wrote: “This person
had never met Dan before or after his accident and obviously gave no
consideration for our younger daughters who had seen their big
brother suffer so much.”

Suicide
in England is not illegal, but assisting a suicide is.

Not
everyone supported the suicide victim. “This young man, Daniel
James, did not need help to kill himself: he needed help to live with
severe disability,” said Dr Peter Saunders, of the Care Not Killing
Alliance. “It is most unfortunate that he fell into the hands of
Dignitas when he did. He was still very much in the acute stage of
loss and he was also almost certainly profoundly depressed. It is a
terrible tragedy.”

Baroness
Mary Warnock
, who is probably the
most eminent bioethicist in the UK, and a strong supporter of
assisted suicide and euthanasia, sees the case as an opportunity to
test the law. Writing in The Guardian,
she observes that if the police decline to prosecute, even though the
case against Mr and Mrs James is “crystal clear”, then the law
will fall into disrepute. What is at stake, says Warnock is a
principle: “we have a moral obligation to take other people’s
seriously reached decisions with regard to their own lives equally
seriously, not putting our judgment of the value of their life above
theirs. Mr and Mrs James have sadly and dramatically carried out this
moral obligation.”

Feelings
about the case are running high. Simon
Jenkins
, once editor of the London
Times, and now a columnist at The
Guardian, commented that denial of the
right to die is sheer religious primitivism: “Only the most warped
collectivist could argue that individuals must be kept alive against
their will.” ~ London
Times, Oct 19