Assisted Dying

Part of Sale of New Petrol and Diesel Cars and Vans – in the House of Commons at 2:49 pm on 4th July 2019.

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Photo of Crispin Blunt Crispin Blunt Conservative, Reigate 2:49 pm, 4th July 2019

I have been engaged in this issue since the very early days when I arrived in this Parliament in 1997, guided, along with many other right hon. and hon. Members, by the experience within my own wider family.

By 2040, nearly one in seven people are projected to be aged over 75, so we will be engaged in supporting an ageing population who will lead fuller lives, working longer, by adapting the workplace and ensuring that individuals can reskill throughout their life. But people will be living with chronic conditions, and multiple morbidities and cognitive impairments will become more common within our population. I have no doubt that our innovative and caring society will solve, or certainly ameliorate, these conditions, but the hard truth is that more of us will have to grapple with surviving with the pain and indignity of crippling progressive infirmity in later life.

If we do not change the law, even more people than the current one every eight days may travel to Switzerland for an assisted death—and, of course, there are all those people who do not have the means to travel and all those travelling to Switzerland early so that they can exercise the autonomy available to them there. I do appreciate the views not only of right hon. and hon. Members but of the public who express concerns over assisted dying. It is of course a controversial subject. However, the injustice and the tyranny of having no escape from pain and indignity that our law continues to impose on a growing number of our fellow citizens will not go away until we address it. In Oregon, since 1997, a total of 1,127 patients have died from ingesting these medications. Not only does the yearly figure barely rise above the 0.003% mark, but only 64% of those who have received prescriptions for the medications since 1997 have actually taken them.

When we discuss this emotional topic, the most grotesque characteristics of greedy, overbearing relatives are conjured up in some hypothetical dark fantasy, but these arguments about a slippery slope or the vulnerability of people simply ignore the fact that this applies only to terminally ill people. When the Assisted Dying Bill came to this House in 2015, its terms would require two doctors to sign off on the fact that the person would be dead within six months and the process to be overseen by a High Court judge. How many more measures would opponents of this principle want to satisfy them? The difficult truth is that for many, it is none. This is about the imposition of a faith-based view of the sanctity of life overriding any sensible application of personal autonomy for people in dreadful and terminal strife.