Assisted Dying

Part of Sale of New Petrol and Diesel Cars and Vans – in the House of Commons at 4:11 pm on 4th July 2019.

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Photo of Jeff Smith Jeff Smith Opposition Whip (Commons) 4:11 pm, 4th July 2019

I do not plan to take the full six minutes, not least because we have heard so many really eloquent and brilliant speeches today. I pay particular tribute to Nick Boles and to my hon. Friend Paul Blomfield for their incredibly moving and powerful contributions.

I supported changing the law in 2015, and I would do so again. I pay tribute to the Members who came to this debate with an open mind and said that they have changed their minds for having the bravery and open-mindedness to do so. I still support changing the law because I believe that it is not working. I want to emphasise three areas where is not. First, there is the unfairness of the current situation. We have already heard that roughly one person a week goes to Switzerland. However, people go to Switzerland if they have the financial resource, practical resource, and, very often, emotional support to do so. We should not be condemning those without the financial resources to an end that is not of their choosing while other people can afford to go abroad. Even that, I would argue, would not be their first choice and is not the ideal situation, but at least they have the financial means and support to be able to make a choice of some kind. We should be giving that choice to everybody who needs it.

Secondly, the current law results in perverse outcomes. My hon. Friend Antoinette Sandbach pointed out that it results in people dying sooner than they should. I am not going to repeat those remarks because they put it far better than I could. I pay tribute to them for their speeches.

Thirdly, I want to touch on the issue of palliative care. This debate is often framed as a choice between good palliative care and the right to choose how to die, but that should not be the case. Of course we need to invest in good palliative care—we need the best that we can get—but even with the best palliative care, we cannot stop all suffering at the end of life. A person should have the opportunity to choose their way of dying in addition to the availability of great palliative care.

I also want to respond briefly to three points from the debate. First, I agree very strongly with the hon. Member for Grantham and Stamford in his request for a call for evidence to study the experience of Oregon and Canada. I do not share the pessimism of others that we cannot frame legislation that works for the people who need it to work, and gathering that evidence and learning from those examples will, I believe, allow us to do so.

I strongly disagree with Martin Vickers, who said that introducing assisted dying will lessen the value we put on human life. If we value human life and if we value people, we should allow them to live the life they choose, and that includes the death they choose.

My hon. Friend Lyn Brown quoted a statistic about the number of people in Oregon who gave being a burden as their reason for choosing assisted dying. That only tells part of the story, because people who request assisted dying in Oregon give several reasons—