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 do not think that I have ever had a more intelligent set of interventions, so I thank the hon. Gentleman for another one. There has been change, but I do not want to pretend that the change has gone far enough, which is why we are not proposing, at this point, to bring forward a new set of legal measures.

Perhaps the most significant change is in the opinion of the medical profession. We have seen a number of royal colleges move from having a formal position of opposing assisted dying to having a position of being neutral about it, which reflects the fact that they will always have some members who are very much opposed to it, but they now have an increasing number of physicians who are in favour of it.

We have seen not so much a change as a consolidation of public opinion on this issue. In the latest opinion poll, which, frankly, is not very different from any of the opinion polls over the past couple of years, more than 80% of the British public support an assisted dying law for people in the final six months of a terminal illness, and well over 50% of people who declare that they have an active faith take that view. So although Church leaders, apart from the very honourable exception of the former Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey, are opposed, their flocks are actually finding that they, too, believe that a change in the law is justified.

I also agree with the hon. Gentleman that, before any further proposals come forward, we should study closely the experience in the state of Victoria in Australia, for example. As he will be aware, New Zealand recently passed on Second Reading an assisted dying law, and there is the much longer standing experience of Oregon as well as Canada more recently. We should study all those and look at the precise legal and medical safeguards used to try to devise something that avoids many of the risks that have been raised by other hon. Members.