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Mental Capacity Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 4:15 pm on 1st February 2005.

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Photo of Baroness Barker Baroness Barker Social Services, Non-Departmental & Cross-Departmental Responsibilities 4:15 pm, 1st February 2005

I rise briefly to add one point. I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Winston, has had to leave the Chamber. I wish for him the same as I wish for all those who are in his situation: that they may do what is right and causes the least pain to the person they love. As the noble Lord, Lord Carter, has explained most eloquently, I remain convinced that the Bill will enable clinicians, alongside families, to reach decisions. Those will be taken at different points and under different circumstances for every individual patient.

I want to make one comment about the amendments. As I was throughout our deliberations in the Joint Committee, I am deeply sympathetic to the argument put forward by the noble Baroness, Lady Knight of Collingtree. She put her case to the committee with great conviction, which I salute. However, I acknowledge the point made to me by the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay of Llandaff. These amendments may have an unintended consequence. If someone is at an advanced stage of their disease and is dying at home, the provisions of these amendments would raise a question of whether a clinician would have to remove that person from their home to a place where they could receive the sorts of procedures we have been talking about. However, the person concerned would not wish for that; they would want to die at home, peacefully, with dignity and surrounded by the people they love.

We may be trying to use legislation, which is a fearfully blunt instrument, to make decisions about situations that can change very fast. Those of us who served on the Joint Committee considered these matters at great length. We sought to construct a legal framework that would include as many safeguards as possible while still allowing room to make what are ultimately clinical decisions.