Assisted Dying (No. 2) Bill

It has been a privilege to be here and listen to both sides of the debate, which has been based on personal and moving experience. It has been a wonderful debate. I fully recognise the deeply held moral and practical views and the differences of opinion on this issue, which, although diverging in their approach to assisted dying, acknowledge and respect the responsibility of our society to show compassion.

Good intentions, however, do not always yield good results. Legislation that allows the taking of a life should not do so at the expense of vulnerable people. One of my principal concerns about the Bill remains the possibility that pressure could be put on vulnerable people to request assisted suicide. I am particularly thinking of situations where people may feel an unbearable pressure to commit suicide for fear of becoming a burden on loved ones. One of my constituents wrote to me on this point and I would like to share her comments with the House. She said:

“If I was unable to be independent, I would immediately be under pressure to go. My only daughter is fully employed and I have been a widow for over 50 years—there is no one else I could call on. As soon as I ask help of my daughter, I put pressure on her already-busy life. She would not deliberately wish me out of the way but adding the burden of mother-care would make it very hard for her to cope.”​

She goes on to say:

“How could I NOT feel under pressure to get out of the way? I would be unable stubbornly to stay alive when I knew I was being the last straw in her busy life.”

If this Bill becomes law there would be hundreds, if not thousands, of people who would feel themselves to be in this position.

There is a further difficulty, which is the definition of “reasonable”. That has been talked about so I will not go into it again, but I will say the debate on both sides of this issue has been grounded in compassion, but the right to die, although argued for well, is not greater than the right of vulnerable people to live.