Dignity in Dying

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 8:44 pm on 8th December 2021.

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Photo of Andrew Mitchell Andrew Mitchell Conservative, Sutton Coldfield 8:44 pm, 8th December 2021

My hon. Friend makes a very good point, and I will come directly to that.

My aim in this debate is not to persuade all colleagues of the rightness of this cause but to make two clear points: first, that this is a debate about the real-life consequences of our blanket ban on assisted dying; and secondly, that there are real examples from overseas of how it can be done better.

In the past several days, we have seen the rules on international travel tighten once again; in the space of a week, the Swiss Government closed their borders to travellers from the UK unless they undertook a quarantine of 10 days, before changing the rules back a few days later. The dismay that that has caused people seeking an assisted death in Switzerland is overwhelming, with their having to spend their final days confined to a hotel room, scrambling to update plans when time and energy are in such short supply, and unable to have all—or perhaps any—of their loved ones there to accompany them. The already cruel situation where British citizens can have the death they want only if they travel to another country becomes yet more unacceptable when even that most exceptional option can be withdrawn with such short notice. That is not to blame Switzerland; it is the fault of our own failure as a country to provide that option at home, preferring to outsource our compassion to another country.

Last year, I raised the question of travel during the pandemic with the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care. He confirmed that the ban on travelling overseas did not apply to those travelling for an assisted death in another country. That announcement was a welcome relief to many, although it once again highlights our heavy reliance on other jurisdictions to provide our own citizens with the deaths that they want.