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Assisted Dying (No. 2) Bill

Part of Prayers – in the House of Commons at 1:49 pm on 11th September 2015.

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Photo of Huw Merriman Huw Merriman Conservative, Bexhill and Battle 1:49 pm, 11th September 2015

I will be voting in favour of the Bill. Having today reached my decision, I want to set out briefly the factors that made the merits of the Bill outweigh my concerns. I have heard it argued that the Bill will not help those who are locked in a coma and are without the capacity to administer their own death. This argument holds true, and I would be unable to vote for the Bill if its scope were so wide, as there would not be enough safeguards. However, the Bill is limited in its applicability.

I have heard it said that this Bill will be subject to a much wider interpretation by the courts than that which I have described. I do not discount that, but I have greater faith in both the wording of the Bill, particularly over the need for the prognosis to be terminal and for death to occur within six months, and in the reluctance of our courts to make law where the drafting is already clear and settled.

I have also heard the argument that enacting the Bill today would make it easier for future Parliaments to amend and broaden the applicability beyond those with terminal illness perhaps to those suffering from mental illness. I hope that that does not occur, but I have grappled with the persuasive argument that if this House opens the door and leaves it ajar, it will make it easier to open the door wide thereafter. If this House failed to legislate on the basis that a future House could broaden legislation, we would never produce laws at all. Ultimately, I concluded that I should make my decision based on the Bill before me, not on a hypothetical draft that may never be read.

The crux of my reasoning, which ultimately allows me to weigh up the arguments and vote in favour of the Bill, is the desire to grant a right to those who may require it and will be impacted by exercising it. This right is not for those who wrote to me, often citing religious reasons why life should not be capable of being ended prematurely. This right is not for those who will see out their final days of a terminal illness and rely on excellent palliative care. Those people would not utilise this law. This Bill is for the smaller number of people who wish to exercise their right to die earlier in their final six months—before they fade away in front of their family, before they enter a desperate period that they feel they cannot face, before they believe they will lose their dignity. It is for those people, with their own individual reasons, that I will cast my vote today to allow them this right.