Assisted Dying

Part of Sale of New Petrol and Diesel Cars and Vans – in the House of Commons at 3:24 pm on 4th July 2019.

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Photo of Tonia Antoniazzi Tonia Antoniazzi Labour, Gower 3:24 pm, 4th July 2019

I have made just a few notes for my speech, because this is a very important debate.

I picked up a couple of emails earlier from constituents. Some wished me to speak in favour of a change in the law, while others wished me to oppose it. I wanted to stand up today and explain why I would vote in favour of assisted dying if legislation were to be introduced in the House, because I grew up as a Catholic, I was educated in a good Catholic school, and I feel very strongly that when something becomes a religious issue we must be very careful about how we use our language, particularly when the issue involves life and death.

The debate is very pertinent to me, because I have a kind of counter-argument. My father died on 22 December 2011, and this choice was taken away from him. It was not like the situation described by my hon. Friend Paul Blomfield, whose father, having known that he was dying, sadly and tragically took his own life.

I feel very strongly about people being in hospital and being told that they will be fine and they are keeping going, given that in this case the decision was not a decision made by the patient and the doctor. That doctor took away our family’s choice, and the opportunity —not the choice, but the opportunity—to discuss with my father how he would end his life. He would not have been in favour of assisted dying—I can tell you that with my hand on my heart—but the information was kept from him, and from the family, that his medication was to be withdrawn, and he was to die a very painful and horrible death in a hospital bed just before Christmas because it was at the convenience of the hospital.

This is a mega decision to make, and one that each individual has the right to make, because we should have that choice; we should be able to choose how we end our lives. The choice was taken away from my father and from the family, and I will never forgive the clinician for that.

I believe that charities should play a greater part in this discussion, because talking about dying and death is a huge taboo in our society. The need to improve knowledge and understanding of death is key to the debate. Amazing work is done by people like Kathryn Mannix, a palliative care consultant in Wales. It is very important for these options to be available to us, and for us to be able to have the necessary conversations. There are many flippant conversations with my friends and family—“If anything is going to happen to me, you know what to do; I will have my savings, and I will have my paracetamol”—but we should not be having such conversations. It is our duty as Members of Parliament to ensure that there is legislation that enables people to decide how they want to end their lives.

I pay tribute to the people who are in the Public Gallery today, because they include many families who have either been in this situation or are in this situation currently. We need to remember that their journey is real, and we need to know that we must have this discussion. I will not use any religion, or my Catholic upbringing, as a reason for the discussion not to happen, or for a change in the law not to come about.

We have talked about the law in New Zealand, and, indeed, across the world. Let me also pay tribute to a good friend of mine, Louisa Wall, a Member of Parliament from Auckland in New Zealand. She too is in the Gallery today, and she has a great interest in the debate.

I hope that we will see that legislation, and I just wanted to explain to my constituents, and to everyone, how I would intend to vote.