Assisted Dying

Part of Sale of New Petrol and Diesel Cars and Vans – in the House of Commons at 4:27 pm on 4th July 2019.

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Photo of Andrew Slaughter Andrew Slaughter Labour, Hammersmith 4:27 pm, 4th July 2019

I do not think the hon. Lady does herself any favours by making that argument. It is quite barbaric to think that relatives may sit in fear of a knock on the door from the police. The police themselves are in a very difficult situation. As Ann Whaley recalled, the police felt that they had to go through with an obligation which they perhaps did not want placed upon them.

Consider the case of Tony Nicklinson, who lost his case in the higher courts. I make no criticism of the higher courts— I think this is a matter for us rather than the judiciary—but he effectively had to starve himself to death to achieve the same objectives. The fact that people are going to their deaths earlier than they need to, and going through the most distressing of additional circumstances to do so, should prick our consciences rather more than it does. On the other hand, I do understand—this is why I have moved over a period of time—the arguments about undue influence and the slippery slope. It is important to look at what safeguards are there. I believe, from what we have heard today, that the safeguards are there, but I also believe that this is a balancing act.

Members will perhaps be aware of the case of another very brave man, Phil Newby, another sufferer of motor neurone disease, who is crowdfunding at the moment to take a case on the basis of proportionality. Yes, there are rights for those who are in a difficult circumstance and who might fear, or feel, pressure on them, but there are rights for those who are in great distress because they feel the need to end their own lives and are unable to do so.

The medical profession was mentioned by a number of hon. Members. I think there is a change of mood. If one looks at the Royal College of Physicians, the direction of travel even over the past decade has been from 70% of its members being against a change in the law to about 50% now. I think that trend will continue. I understand the additional pressures it would put on the medical profession. I understand that for some it looks like a conflict of interest and a compromise of their role, but I feel that everybody must take a mature view and I believe that opinion in the medical profession is changing.

I think we all support good quality palliative care for a number of reasons, including taking the pressure off the acute sector and off our hospitals. A palliative care setting can often be the best place to die. I am furious that the Pembridge palliative care unit, which serves my constituents, is being decommissioned; we only learnt of that last week. It is an excellent unit, and I will fight to preserve it. However, I do not believe that there is a conflict there with what we are discussing today. The two things sit alongside each other. They are both matters of compassion, and about doing the best for people in extremis in the most difficult parts of their lives.

So, with a lot of thought, I support what has been said and I congratulate the Members who tabled the motion.