Complexities of moral maze

THERE must be enormous sympathy for Paul Lamb, the Leeds man left paralysed from the neck down after a car accident in 1990.

He says he endures pain every day and does not want to go on living, but has no way out. The fact he is so severely disabled means he could not take his own life so would need the help of a doctor to die.

Yet this would, under present UK law, amount to murder. It is why the 58-year-old has taken his legal challenge to the Supreme Court, with judges once again being asked to decide whether there should be a change in legislation.

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In spite of the concern for Mr Lamb’s predicament, it is surely not the role of the judiciary to intervene on such matters, but rather the job of Parliament to give a clear direction in terms of the laws that the nation’s judges then implement.

That is not to say that grey areas surrounding assisted suicide don’t exist. But then that is hardly surprising given the complexity of this moral maze.

Four years ago, Bradford campaigner Debbie Purdy made history with her victory in a long-running fight to have the law clarified.

Yet although the Director of Public Prosecutions 
Keir Starmer spelt out a range of factors that should be taken into account when deciding whether to prosecute someone who helped another person to die, his guidance did not represent a change in the law.

This has not silenced calls for reform, with Labour peer Lord Falconer having tabled a private member’s bill to try and legalise assisted suicide for people who have been given less than six months to live.

Yet a fundamental shift in legislation of this sort would have to consider a number of factors – not least that the present law is designed to protect some of the most vulnerable in society.

At the same time, the most emotionally powerful appeal is to human compassion in the face of terrible pain and suffering – which some would argue demands that those who undergo such suffering be given help to die, if that is what they want.

Once again, however, this raises the question as to whether emphasising the relief of suffering to the exclusion of almost everything else might result in important aspects of care being forgotten.

Such conflicting instincts underline just how difficult it is to reach a satisfactory solution to this issue. If change does come, however, it is imperative that it emanates not from the courts, but from Parliament itself.

At mercy of floods

IN the wake of the flooding caused by last week’s huge tidal surge, homeowners in the worst-hit areas of East Yorkshire have been left counting the cost of their failure to obtain insurance – either because no company was willing to cover them or the price was prohibitively expensive.

The exemptions contained within the new publicly-funded Flood Re deal thrashed out with insurance companies potentially mean that others may now be placed in a similarly unenviable position.

While the scheme is welcome in that it ensures many of those living in flood-hit areas can secure affordable cover, the thinking behind the decision to exclude those in properties which fall into 
the Band H council tax bracket is inherently 
flawed.

As it was left to Labour MPs to point out, those residing in Band H properties can often be pensioners who have little in the way of savings and are forced to live on limited incomes. In many cases they will simply not be able to afford to take out a policy offered at an inflated price.

While it should not be left to poorer taxpayers to subsidise the wealthiest, such a rudimentary means of assessing eligibility risks leaving many vulnerable homeowners at the mercy of future flooding with no financial safeguard in place to deal with its aftermath.

Taken in conjunction with the decision to also omit small businesses and homes built after 2009, it is hard not to think that for all its benefits, the Flood Re scheme has produced an all too clear divide in terms of its winners and losers.

Life less ordinary

IN the wake of the flooding caused by last week’s huge tidal surge, homeowners in the worst-hit areas of East Yorkshire have been left counting the cost of their failure to obtain insurance – either because no company was willing to cover them or the price was prohibitively expensive.

The exemptions contained within the new publicly-funded Flood Re deal thrashed out with insurance companies potentially mean that others may now be placed in a similarly unenviable position.

While the scheme is welcome in that it ensures many of those living in flood-hit areas can secure affordable cover, the thinking behind the decision to exclude those in properties which fall into 
the Band H council tax bracket is inherently 
flawed.

As it was left to Labour MPs to point out, those residing in Band H properties can often be pensioners who have little in the way of savings and are forced to live on limited incomes. In many cases they will simply not be able to afford to take out a policy offered at an inflated price.

While it should not be left to poorer taxpayers to subsidise the wealthiest, such a rudimentary means of assessing eligibility risks leaving many vulnerable homeowners at the mercy of future flooding with no financial safeguard in place to deal with its aftermath.

Taken in conjunction with the decision to also omit small businesses and homes built after 2009, it is hard not to think that for all its benefits, the Flood Re scheme has produced an all too clear divide in terms of its winners and losers.