Assisted Dying

Part of Sale of New Petrol and Diesel Cars and Vans – in the House of Commons at 2:23 pm on 4th July 2019.

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Photo of Nicholas Boles Nicholas Boles Independent, Grantham and Stamford 2:23 pm, 4th July 2019

I could not agree more with the hon. Lady. The truth is that this is not in any way an alternative to the best possible palliative care; it is a complement to the best possible palliative care. We want to ensure that all those who want to choose to live out their lives and die naturally—even through a horrific illness with horrific symptoms—are given every support to be able to make that decision. Unfortunately, we also know—and all the evidence suggests this—that there are some people for whom palliative care cannot help in those final moments, and it is of them that I am thinking.

What do we think of a law that criminalises otherwise law-abiding people, such as Ann Whaley, who are simply trying to act with love in accordance with their marriage vows and their conscience? What do we think of a law that forces people in the final months of a terminal illness to take desperate and even dangerous steps, which may cause even more suffering to themselves and to the people whom they love, in secret and without any safeguards or support? What do we think of a law that denies hundreds of innocent people dignity and control as their lives draw to a close and condemns them to extreme suffering instead? I will tell you what I think, Madam Deputy Speaker: it is a bad law and it should be changed.

However, the purpose of today’s debate is not to propose a new law on assisted dying, but to understand the effect of the current law on people suffering from terminal illnesses, on their families, on the doctors, nurses and carers looking after them, and on social workers and the police. It is only when we have fully understood all the different ways in which the current law impacts on the British people that we should consider returning to the question, last debated in 2015, of what kind of change in the law might be justified.

To that end, I have a request for my hon. Friend the Minister. We all understand and accept that laws such as these are matters of conscience and that it is for Parliament to initiate a change of the law, but Parliament’s ability to gather evidence is very limited. On behalf of those affected by such laws, and in honour of Geoff and Ann Whaley, I ask the Lord Chancellor and his boss, the Secretary of State for Justice, to initiate a formal call for evidence on the impact of our existing laws on assisted dying, so that Parliament can benefit from a comprehensive assessment of the facts when it next decides to debate and vote on a possible change in the law.