Today the House of Commons is debating the Assisted Dying Bill.
Subject to certain safeguards, this would change the law so that terminally ill adults of sound mind could have assistance to end their own lives. As things stand, anyone who assisted someone to take their life would be committing a criminal offence - although if they were not a medical professional and their motivation was compassionate, they probably wouldn’t be prosecuted.
It’s a highly emotive debate raising questions of individual choice, dignity, the value we place on human life and the protection of vulnerable members of society. Hundreds of constituents have contacted me about it and others attended the public meeting I held on 2nd September. Roughly equal numbers want me to vote for the Bill as oppose it. If you’re one of the people who contacted me, thank you for letting me know what you think and helping to inform my view.
Having thought long and hard about both sides of the argument I believe people of sound mind who are terminally ill should have the right to choose the manner and timing of their death if they wish to do so. Clearly many people, particularly those of faith, will not want to avail themselves of this right, but they should not seek to deny others the choice.
However, I remain very wary that any change in the law could lead to:
- people feeling pressurised into ending their lives when they don’t really want to do so - either directly by family members or indirectly because they don’t want to be a burden; and
- people who are not of sound mind being allowed to end their lives.
Today’s debate is what is known as a Second Reading. If the House of Commons votes against the Bill, the law will remain as it is; if it votes for it, the Bill will be subject to further detailed scrutiny. I have therefore decided to vote for the Bill today but to reserve the right to oppose it at a later date if I am not satisfied with the final version of the safeguards proposed.
I recognise that this approach may end up pleasing neither the strong supporters or opponents of the Bill, but I hope that you will at least feel that I have listened to the diverse views of my constituents and thought long and hard about the issue.
UPDATE: The House of Commons has just voted 118 in favour and 330 against meaning the Bill will not proceed to the committee stage.