Assisted Dying

Part of Sale of New Petrol and Diesel Cars and Vans – in the House of Commons at 2:57 pm on 4th July 2019.

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Photo of Carolyn Harris Carolyn Harris Shadow Minister (Equalities Office) (Women and Equalities) 2:57 pm, 4th July 2019

I regularly visit Ty Olwen, a fantastic hospice in my constituency, which is staffed by the most wonderful clinicians and volunteers. Ty Olwen is a beautiful, peaceful haven, providing dignified, loving and intensive palliative care for patients, as well as comfort for their loved ones. I am full of admiration for the work they do and the care they give, but sometimes that may not be the choice of the person who has been diagnosed with a terminal illness. Imagine for just one minute being given that diagnosis. Imagine, in time, knowing each day that you will never feel this good again and that eventually all your future holds is more discomfort, more fear and possibly a slow and painful death.

While I wholeheartedly believe that life is sacred—I have a faith, and it is my faith that gives me strength— I am a huge advocate of quality of life over quantity and for an individual’s right to make their own choices. I cannot say 100% which path I would choose if I was given that diagnosis, but I know for a fact that I would want to be able to make that choice, and I would want the same for loved ones.

I appreciate that assisted dying is an emotive and contentious issue that splits opinion in this House and across society, but when someone makes the decision to end their life with assistance while they are still physically able to do so and of sound mind, they will do so after much research, thoroughly discussing it with their family and considering the consequences.

As it stands, a UK citizen travels to Switzerland to end their life every eight days. I believe that if the law allowed assisted dying in this country, enabling people to choose to die surrounded by their loved ones in a familiar environment, that would bring comfort and solace to many people.

Under the Suicide Act 1961, while suicide itself is not a criminal offence, the act of encouraging or assisting someone else’s suicide is, leaving doctors and families facing prosecutions and up to 14 years in prison. There are many people who would, and do, choose to continue with their suffering, sometimes dying a painful and undignified death, rather than risk those consequences for their families.