The New Year is ushered in by Father Time, who derives from the Greek God Chronos, more commonly known as the Grim Reaper. A fitting moment, you might think, for the publication of the findings of Lord Falconer's Commission on Assisted Dying.
Hopelessly biased and distorted the Falconer Commission is stacked full of euthanasia sympathisers and was suggested by Dignity in Dying (formerly The Voluntary Euthanasia Society). Note the change in name, and never concede that, to die with dignity, you need a doctor to kill you.
The Funding for the Commission was provided by Bernard Lewis and Terry Pratchett, the latter a patron of Dignity in Dying. It is entirely wedded to introducing legalisation for assisted suicide for those who are terminally ill.
On 30 November 2010 it was revealed that nine of the twelve commissioners were well-known names in the pro-legalisation lobby. The remaining three are certainly not against euthanasia. The euthanasia lobby decided to take the 'independent' route because when two genuinely independent Parliamentary Select Committees carefully examined the issue they did not recommend a change of law.
When votes were then taken in the House of Lords it resulted in large defeats for their proposals (148-100 and 194-141). The last attempt at legalization in Scotland also resulted in a heavy defeat (85-16) for Margo Macdonald's Bill in 2010.
Over 50 organizations refused to give evidence to the Commission when they saw its composition. Instead, Dignity in Dying contacted its own members asking them to give evidence to the Commission. The British Medical Association (BMA) passed a five point resolution that undermined the Commission credibility by questioning its impartiality and independence. On the BBC's Sunday Programme the BBC commentator, Edward Stourton, laughed derisively at the suggestion that the group could be independent if it was so overwhelmingly full of those wanting change.
But, even though this Commission's findings can be dismissed as propaganda, it would be foolish to underestimate the determination of little cliques and elites determined to manipulate public opinion and law.
And consider what is at stake.
Chillingly, Baroness Warnock, who shaped the laws which have led to the destruction of millions of human embryos, has said that the sick are "wasting people's lives" because of the care they require: "If you're demented, you're wasting people's lives - your family's lives - and you're wasting the resources of the National Health Service." Suggesting that we have a "duty to die" she said "I think that's the way the future will go, putting it rather brutally, you'd be licensing people to put others down."
This turns the argument into a worth based on someone's economic value rather than on their true human value and their human dignity.
And in case you think "putting people down" just "couldn't happen here" consider the situation in Holland.
Just before Christmas the Dutch announced that they are considering mobile units to kill people in their own homes. 1,000 of the 4,000 euthanasia deaths in Holland each year are now done without the patient's consent. Not content with this, the Dutch say that 80% of people with dementia or mental illnesses are being 'missed' by the country's euthanasia laws. They say that the death-on-wheels mobile units are necessary because some GPs have refused to administer lethal drugs to their patients.
This isn't giving people "dignity in dying". Sending out mobile units to administer lethal injections, to "put people down", will strike fear into the hearts of the vulnerable. It diminishes the dignity and humanity of the sick and elderly and diminishes those of us who condone it.
Imagine what will happen in Britain if the Falconer Commission gets its way. You have a terminal incurable disease. You have the option of palliative care at £1,000 a week or a glass of barbiturates at £5. Would we honestly see relatives seeing granny living on and exhausting the inheritance? One in eight current cases of elder abuse currently involves financial abuse by relatives and it would inevitably increase if we change the law. Won't health ministers, counting their pennies in a recession, be tempted to go for the cheaper option? A Bill allowing assisted suicide will carry the seeds of its own extension. If we allow it for some why deny it to others? So how long before the Dutch mobile killing units arrive in a street near you?
A change in the law is unnecessary, dangerous and unethical. As the distinguished lawyer, Lord Carlile QC, puts it we have "a hard law, with a kind face." We should keep it that way.
When the physical, psychosocial and spiritual needs of the patient are met, requests for euthanasia are actually extremely rare (listening to the BBC you could be forgiven for thinking otherwise). Less than 1,000 people persistently ask for it. 95% of Palliative Medicine Specialists are opposed to a change in the law.
Rather than imitating the Dutch, in 2012 we need to make a New Year's Resolution to get behind groups like the admirable Care Not Killing Alliance, to defend and care for the sick and elderly and to put our energy into extending compassionate palliative care, and practical loving support - let's demand "dignity in living" with the same fervour as those who want to license the routine killing of the most vulnerable in society. Let's welcome the new but not see off the old.
The Honorable David Alton is a member of the House of Lords.