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Tory MPs debate assisted suicide

Yesterday in a five hour debate MPs discussed the law on assisted suicide. Extracts from some of the contributions from Conservative MPs are pasted below.

Jacob Rees-Mogg: "We have to legislate for the weak and vulnerable, and for those who have nobody to defend them. Yes, of course we can all cite examples of intelligent, capable people who would be able, for example, to resist pressure from family members who might be after an inheritance, but what about those who feel that they have become a burden to society? My greatest concern for the elderly and the frail is that, although they might be enjoying their lives, they might feel that they have become a burden and therefore selflessly propose that their own end should be hastened. That is my concern about the term “voluntary”."

John Baron: "For the avoidance of doubt, let me absolutely clear: I believe that the compassionate approach for patients who are in severe pain, are terminally ill and have the support of their family would be to allow them to choose to die provided that the appropriate safeguards are in place. Yes, there is a right to life, and that is terribly important, but there is also a right to choose to die with dignity, knowing that one’s relatives will not be prosecuted, and surrounded by family and loved ones—not alone for fear of the prosecution of those left behind. That is why I will support amendment (a). This area is far too important and the situation is far too unique to be left to Government officials. It should be subject to parliamentary oversight. Yes, we know that the guidelines are just that and are not law, but prosecution or the threat of it can be profoundly disturbing to the loved ones left behind. We should not underestimate that. We do not know for sure whether those left behind will have committed a criminal act, but the threat of prosecution or prosecution itself can be profoundly disturbing, particularly for those who have already had to endure severe grief in their lives. Putting guidance on the statute book brings that certainty. It brings certainty that those who maliciously assist someone to die will be prosecuted and also provides protection to those acting on compassionate grounds. I believe that those factors should be taken into account and that we need to end that uncertainty."

Eleanor Laing: "Many hon. Members have spoken about choice and palliative care, but palliative care does not work for everyone. If it did, we would not have a problem and we would not be having this debate. Some people who are in the final stages of life have intolerable and untreatable suffering and pain. They have no choice, and they deserve our compassion. Although I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Mr Leigh) about the right to life being paramount, we cannot ignore quality of life at its end."

Nadine Dorries MP: "Sentiment is beginning to grow around the concept of a loving family member assisting in the final act of a loved one. However, those at the end of their lives do not always have a relative or a loved one; indeed, the “loved one” may, in fact, be the state or the care home, or wherever they are being cared for. No matter how we dress it up, there are people across this country in nursing homes being cared for—disabled people, vulnerable people—who feel very protected by the law as it stands. If it were changed, they would suddenly feel very vulnerable, because they could imagine a point in time when they are aware of what they cost the NHS, the state or wherever they are being cared for. At the moment they may feel a burden, but they know that they are protected. However, there may come a point when they become depressed because of their illness and feel that one day the state will adopt the role of the person assisting in their suicide. As one disabled lady said to me about three years ago, “I can see the day when a doctor comes to me with a little pink cocktail and says, ‘You know you’re costing the state about £10,000 a week at the moment? Would you like to end your life?” We may think that is ridiculous, but to people who are disabled and vulnerable it does not seem quite so ridiculous."

Glyn Davies: "I firmly believe that assisting in suicide is wrong and should be a criminal offence, but, as with all criminal offences, the DPP or the prosecution service must always have the discretion to apply a degree of common sense and make judgments about what motivated the person concerned to commit that criminal offence. Since the guidelines were issued two years ago, the DPP has made a sensible judgment in every case. Where he has been satisfied that the crime was motivated by compassion, no prosecution has taken place. The system is working well. It is delivering exactly what we want in law; it supports what this Parliament has judged we should have in law. If we were to put things on a statutory basis, we would damage the current law, which is working so well, and it would result in pressure being put on some of the most vulnerable people in society, which would be plain wrong."

Edward Leigh: "I am totally opposed to euthanasia in any shape or form. Some people will say, “That’s all very well for you. At the moment you are reasonably healthy. What if you are faced with the appalling difficulties and problems that we have been talking about today?”, and my answer is that I do not know. All I know is that we must proclaim this truth, and the House of Commons should proclaim it—that anybody, however young, unborn, crippled, hopeless, diseased or idiotic, has as much right to life as anybody else, and all life is precious because the external human body is simply a mirror of the soul. If we renege on that moral certainty and if we start on a journey, it is a very dangerous journey indeed."


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