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Assisted Dying (No. 2) Bill

Part of Prayers – in the House of Commons at 10:33 am on 11th September 2015.

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Photo of Crispin Blunt Crispin Blunt Chair, Foreign Affairs Committee 10:33 am, 11th September 2015

I would take interventions, but I am conscious that many people want to speak.

The arguments about a slippery slope or the vulnerability of people in the letter to us from the two archbishops and the religious leaders simply ignore the fact that this applies only to terminally ill people. Two doctors have to sign off on the fact that the person will be dead within six months and the process is overseen by a High Court judge. On the subject of freedom, I ask my right hon. and hon. Friends to consider who will be the beneficiaries of this legislation. It is not us in here, who, if we were faced with these circumstances would be capable of taking the decision for ourselves, but it is the people who cannot exercise that ability and need someone else to help them make that decision in the last six months of their life; when they want to exercise the option of ending their life with dignity, at a time of their choosing, having had the opportunity to talk to their family and have all the conversations to which my right hon. Friend the Member for Meriden referred. They will then know when the end of their life will come. The Bill gives people in those circumstances a little bit of control at the end. Perhaps most importantly, it gives everyone the potential to have that little bit of control the end. In Oregon, hardly anyone—0.3% of people dying—exercises the right. The whole Oregon experience entirely supports that this is a practical, sensible, humane and decent measure. I went there to see it in operation, as I am so interested in this issue.

For nearly everyone, the Bill will provide the comfort of having a degree of control over the end of their life. We must and ought to have a right to choose, despite the concerns about what a valid choice looks like. Those issues are addressed in the Bill. I say in particular to my right hon. and hon. Friends that this is an issue of freedom. The logo of our party for a long time was the torch of freedom, and that is why I am surprised that there is so much opposition to the Bill on the Conservative Benches. I understand the Catholic and faith lobby will have in-principle objections, but I am slightly appalled that they should seek to sustain legislation that limits my personal autonomy when 80% of the population, presented with this proposition, would support it.

In the 21st century, mutual tolerance should have taken us beyond that. We are the party of freedom and choice and surely there could be no greater demonstration of our commitment to those principles than the principle in this Bill. Hiding behind the slippery slope argument will not do. If two doctors and a High Court judge are not enough, what is? My hon. Friends should seek to insert in Committee the safeguards they feel are required, but they should not abandon the guiding principle of our party and oppose the freedom that the Bill enshrines today.