Law on Assisted Suicide

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:06 pm on 10th March 2010.

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Photo of Patricia Hewitt Patricia Hewitt Labour, Leicester West 7:06 pm, 10th March 2010

My hon. Friend makes an extremely important point, drawing on her own personal experience. She is absolutely right. Experience in the state of Oregon and in the Netherlands, for example, shows that wonderful palliative care, far from being reduced or diminished by a change in the law to allow assisted dying, is actually increased by it.

For all the reasons that I have set out, I have come to the conclusion that we need a royal commission-an independent inquiry of that stature-to look at the evidence from places that have already legalised assisted dying, to consider the numbers of British people seeking an assisted death either here or abroad, to examine the position of medical and nursing staff under present law, and to make proposals on how vulnerable people might best be protected from abuse or exploitation if the law were to be changed. Such a report could then form the basis for the wider debate that we need, not just among the public but above all in Parliament, about the best way forward.

Late though it is in the present Parliament, I urge my hon. Friend the Minister to do her best to persuade the Lord Chancellor of the merits of this proposal. I for one have no doubt that it is no longer a question of whether the law will change but a question of when it will change, and I hope that this evening's debate will be another small step towards that end.