LDV members' survey (3): yes to assisted suicide, and to incitement to gay hatred ban

by Stephen Tall on April 5, 2009

Over the last week or so, Lib Dem Voice has invited the members of our private forum (open to all Lib Dem members) inviting them to take part in a survey, conducted via Liberty Research, asking a number of questions about the party and the current state of British politics. Many thanks to the almost 200 of you who completed it; we’re publishing the results on LDV over the next few days. You can catch up on the results of our exclusive LDV members’ surveys by clicking here.

In the light of the controversy over Swiss right-to-die organisation Dignitas, LDV asked: Do you think the law should be changed, so that it is no longer illegal to assist a relative in seeking assisted suicide abroad?

Here’s what you told us:

Yes – 75.3%
No – 17.5%
Don’t know – 7.2%

Here’s a small selection of your comments:

Some confusion is useful. Leave it to the courts.
The right to die in dignity should be respected.
This is not the sort of thing which Parliament should interfere with. A Nelsonian blind eye is a much more adult, progressive and Liberal approach.
I do not think suicide should be encouraged, whether assisted or not, whether here or abroad.
Very frequently assisted suicide as it is called is an act of love.
I don’t think it should be illegal to travel abroad and if assisteed suicide is legal in a foriegn juristiction then thats there problem.
To each a life is given and it is for each to ‘live it’ and ‘death it’ as they deem right – so long as no harm to others is caused.
It must be a difficult decision and I couldn’t do so; let’s not criminalise those who are brave enough to do so.
By analogy with abortion, if we legalise it in the UK, then we can regulate the circumstances in which it’s permissible.

We then asked: Should assisted suicide be legal in the UK?

Again, there was strong support, but less strong than for allowing it to happen overseas:

Yes – 61.9%
No – 26.8%
Don’t know – 11.3%

Here’s a little of what you said:

At least, not until the change in the law okaying ones done abroad is given some time.
It’s going to happen anyway. Legalise and regulate it very tightly, that’s vastly better than having it happen unregulated in secret.
But with important legal safeguards to guarantee informed consent.
I have every sympathy with those who are suffering intolerably and wish to end their own life but I am concerned for those who may be pressured to this against their wishes.
I don’t support assisted suicide. But I think patients should be able to give waivers to allow enhanced palliative care even if it shortens their lives as a side-effect.

Finally for today, we asked about the criminalisation of incitement to hatred over sexual orientation, as supported by the Lib Dems last month: Liberal Democrat spokespeople have supported a new law to ban incitement to hatred against individuals based on their sexual orientation. What do you think?

66.5% – This law will defend the rights of LGBT people from hatred and persecution
18.0% – This law is an unwarranted curb on free speech
15.5% – Don’t know

Here’s some of what you said:

But only to be applied to extremely serious cases – incitement causing actual violence, and suchlike.
Depends on the distinction between hatred and violence. People have a right to say nasty things, but not to raise a finger in violence.
Both are true. Bigots are appalling, but “incitement to hatred” is thought crime.
I am very wary of any ban on speech, on whatever subject. I am a great believer in giving no platform to hate speech, but outright bans are wrong, and only fuel both resentment and claims of ‘political correctness gone mad’ etc. Work on ending discrimination against LGBT people first.
I do not see that it is necessary to specify sexual orientation. Simply put a full stop after “against individuals” Otherwise there are numerous groups of people that you should specify eg: age, colour,mannerisms, language, etc
I am so torn between free speech and the hushing of hatred. I wish law could be logical and not need to be so black and white. People speak and at in ways that can be misinterpreted – people are also capable of foolish, dangerous behaviour.
I’m not sure we need a law specifically to deal with incitement.
The way the government currently attempts to defend one’s right to freedom from persecution and hatred is frequently at odds with the right to free speech, because of the way it goes about framing legislation. What starts out as a fantastically good idea usually descends into unworkable farce because of sloppily written laws, resting on top of a basic failure to work through what concepts such as ‘free speech’ really mean.
Incitement to violence is illegal, but we should not legislate for opinions.
This is an unwarranted waste of time. No law can make a bigot love his neighbour.

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“18.0% – This law is an unwarranted curb on free speech”

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. Yet again, the liberals within the Lib Dems go missing when it really counts. First he had Huhne making a mockery of free speech over Geert Wilders, and now we have over 80% of the party rallying against free speech.

Hilarious.

by Letters From A Tory on April 6, 2009 at 9:41 am. Reply #

“Liberal Democrat spokespeople have supported a new law to ban incitement to hatred against individuals based on their sexual orientation. What do you think?”

But that’s not actually true, is it?

The law in question doesn’t ban incitement to hatred per se. It covers threatening words intended to incite hatred, which is significantly more limited.

by Anonymous1 on April 6, 2009 at 10:11 am. Reply #

I think we should scrap all of the laws for incitement to hatred against specific groups and replace them with a single law on incitement to violent hatred.

Incitement to violence is only an offence if it’s against a specific individual; if it’s against a general group (“lynch the bankers”) then it is only an offence for a list of protected groups (race, religion, sexuality). We should protect all groups equally; deliberately or recklessly inciting violence against any person or group should always be criminal.

by Richard on April 6, 2009 at 12:00 pm. Reply #

Letters from a Tory (hmm, I wonder where your sympathies lie?), this is not “over 80% of the party rallying against free speech”, this is “66.5% of the party rallying against freedom to mentally abuse others”.

Firstly, where did you get this “80%” from? There is 66.5% for this proposal, 18% against, and 15.5% who don’t know. There is no 80%.

Also, you are aware that this country doesn’t have complete freedom of speech. One example: libel. There are many others. The point is that we shouldn’t have complete freedom to say whatever we want, since that freedom can invariably intersect with other freedoms and rights. If you truly think it unusual that liberals would support this proposal, then you obviously haven’t heard of John Stuart Mill. Liberals are at heart pragmatic. We realise that what, in one situation, can be an undeniable right or freedom, can in another pale in comparison to some another right or freedom. And what philosophers such as Mill, Hobbes and Locke have shown us, is that all government action protects a right or freedom of one group of people, over a different right or freedom of another group of people. And such action is only legitimate if it protects the correct (from a liberal perspective) right or freedom. And as far as I’m concerned, inciting gay hatred, just like racism against an ethnic group, or incitement to terrorism by a extremist cleric, is not a part of free speech I want protected over the rights of the LGBT community to not be harmed.

by Alex Deam on April 6, 2009 at 10:27 pm. Reply #

Richard pretty much puts my view. I don’t see why gay men, members of religions etc get particular protection in law but Goths don’t (for those who don’t remember there was a clearly hate motivated murder of a Goth girl last year).

Except, being cynical, all the groups which have specific hate crime protection have organised political movements.

Richard also makes the point that it is violence (or at least criminal acts) that should be the target of legislation. Hating someone or a group of people isn’t an offence

by Hywel on April 6, 2009 at 11:13 pm. Reply #

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