Maximum Impact 19.05.06

RECENT weeks have been the usual frantic round of PR activities we find ourselves in the middle of. Exposing John Prescott, protecting Steve McClaren, promoting Celebrity X-Factor and the World Cup record "Who do you think you are kidding Jurgen Klinsmann" by the ToneDef All Stars. In addition, MCA has been busy helping co-ordinate the PR launch of a wonderful new organisation called Not Dead Yet. Inspired and formed by a remarkably courageous lady called Jane Campbell, Not Dead Yet is a network of disabled people who oppose voluntary euthanasia. Jane Campbell is a close friend of my daughter Louise, and like Louise, is herself disabled. She has, again like Louise, overcome many major obstacles to enjoy a happy life.

Last Friday saw the House of Lords decisively reject Lord Joffe's Assisted Dying for the Terminally Ill Bill. Backed by the Voluntary Euthanasia Society (recently re-branded ‘Dignity in Dying') it was the third time he has proposed such legislation. Previously, the media has seen this issue as one of much-needed compassion frustrated by religious bigotry. This time was different. The very people the Bill would affect, disabled and terminally ill people, came together to make their fears known. A new network, Not Dead Yet, got their message across.

Their lives are of equal value and do not need to be shortened.

Terminally ill and disabled people want our help to live, not die.

Campbell, the convener of Not Dead Yet, is a long-time campaigner for disabled people. She is delighted that the majority of Peers heard that message. The media were listening too. Reporting of the House of Lords decision has mostly been positive. But Jane is concerned that the issue will not go away, and warns, "Lord Joffe has vowed to try again in the next session of Parliament. He may even persuade an MP to launch the Bill in the House of Commons."

The collective view of disabled people on these life and death issues has not yet been heard by the media, the courts legislators, the medical profession, and other social and health care, policy makers and practitioners.

It's important that they and the public need to know that the campaign for assisting dying was neither instigated by nor has the support of the disabled people of this country. Because of my daughter, I have spent a lot of time with disabled people who oppose policies that single out individuals for legalised killing based on their medical condition. This includes helping people to die, whether by killing them or by withdrawal of treatment, in the name of compassion.

In response, Jane Campbell says she will help disabled and terminally ill people to keep fighting for their voice to be heard. To that end, she has established a website (www.livingwithdignity.info) to push the forthcoming Independent Living Bill to be introduced by Lord Ashley. "Unlike Joffe's Bill of death, it's a Bill of hope," she says. I wish her well.

With me doing PR for new England manager Steve McClaren, it didn't look too good that I spelt his name wrongly here last week.To use an old journalistic cliché — I blame the subs — and MCA will be shortly revealing the sexual peccadillos of the particular Press Gazette sub responsible for that mistake in a prominent Sunday Newspaper — which of course won't be the News of the World!

The fee for this column is donated to CHASE (Christopher's) Children's Hospital

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