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Assisted Dying Bill defeated in Commons

'They don't swallow this concoction of drugs and then fall asleep. It is not a nice end'

11 September 2015

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The Assisted Dying Bill has been comprehensively defeated in the House of Commons in a free vote by 330 votes to 118.

MPs from both sides of the debate put forward an impassioned argument, but in the first House of Commons vote on assisted dying for 20 years, the 212 majority delivered an overwhelming verdict.

Championed by Lord Falconer, the Bill proposed to give people who have less than six months to live the 'right to die'. A doctor would be able to prescribe a lethal dose of drugs that the terminally ill patient would have to take themselves.

The Bill was brought before the Commons by Rob Marris, Labour MP for Wolverhampton South West, who said that the Bill was, more than anything, about offering people the option to end their lives on their own terms.

'Most of those who would fulfil the criteria in the Bill will, for faith or other reasons, never choose an assisted death.

'I don't know, if I had a terminal illness with a prognosis of less than six months, if I would. But I and many other people would find it comforting to know that the choice was available.'

He found support from fellow Labour MP and former director of public prosecutions, Keir Starmer, who told the commons that without the Bill, those who have the means to go abroad to end their lives will continue to do so, and only those without the means will continue to needlessly suffer.

'We've arrived at a position where compassionate, amateur assistance from nearest and dearest is accepted, but professional medical assistance is not unless you have the means and physical assistance to get to dignitas.

'That to my mind is an injustice that we have trapped within our current arrangement.'

A 'naïve' belief

However the overriding opinion of parliament was well expressed by Lyn Brown, Labour MP for West Ham.

'I think it's naïve to believe that we can prevent the persuasion of an elderly, expensive or asset rich relative, being encouraged, coerced, emotionally blackmailed into taking their own life.

She added: 'And if just one person makes that decision to end their life through such pressure, I believe that would be an absolute tragedy.'

Nadine Dorries, Conservative MP for Mid Bedfordshire, commented: 'The poison which is administered when somebody makes that choice to take their life is not pleasant.

'They don't swallow this concoction of drugs, and they fall asleep. It is not a nice end.'

Former Secretary of State for Defence, Sir Liam Fox, said he believed that the Bill would be of no benefit for future generations.

'However well-meaning the proponents of this Bill may be, they will open a Pandora's box which will fundamentally change, who we are and how we are as a society, how we relate to the medical profession, and I believe none of these will of benefit to future generations.

Meanwhile the British Humanist Society, who were in favour of the Bill, said that although '80 per cent' of the public support the Bill, parliament have proven themselves unwilling to reflect public opinion.

Pavan Dhaliwal, the British Humanist Society's director of public affairs, commented: 'Eighty per cent of the public support a change in the law to legalise assisted dying, but it is clear that parliament still has some way to go before it reflects this fact. In the meantime, countless individuals are needlessly suffering, or facing the prospect of travelling to Switzerland or having their loved ones illegally end their lives.

'Last year, the supreme court ruled that while it is willing to consider whether the lack of a right to die breaches the European convention on human rights, it thought that parliament should first have the opportunity to legislate on the matter.'

He added: 'Today parliament has declined to do so, and so the fight on assisted dying must now return to the courts. We will continue to campaign in favour of assisted dying for the terminally ill and incurably suffering, as this is one of the most pressing ethical issues of our day.'


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