Assisted Dying for the Terminally Ill Bill: Select Committee Report

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 9:27 pm on 10th October 2005.

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Photo of Lord Lucas Lord Lucas Conservative 9:27 pm, 10th October 2005

My Lords, I was very happy to discover that the noble Baroness, Lady Murphy, has covered a lot of what I wanted to say, so I hope that I can be reasonably short. I felt totally in tune with her speech. I have seen this process at first hand a couple of times. Fortunately, they fell into that Hippocratic divide—the double effect—where it was possible for a doctor to treat the people concerned in a way which enabled them to die when they wanted to because of the particular conditions in which they found themselves.

I do not see that as any different from assisted suicide. It looks exactly the same from outside. A patient is offered an alternative, chooses death and dies. I really do not see as relevant the fact that the doctor under those circumstances by some trick salves his or her conscience, or is perhaps happy with the process anyway. In both cases everyone involved—the patients, their families and the more remote people involved—was profoundly grateful that that option was available. Those events happened some while ago now but, looking back on them, I found them a joyful experience. What was achieved was something that everyone felt was right. The goodbyes were said, the suffering was avoided, the end was what the patient wanted and the rest of us understood, consented, went along with it and were part of it.

So the process is there. It is already with us but it is not available to the relations of the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, because they happen to fall on the wrong side of some line. It would not perhaps be available to the noble Lord, Lord Desai, when he wanted it. Why should he not be able to sit down with his wife at his side and have her assistance to bring about his end, if that is what he wanted and she consented to? In what way does that trouble other people's existence if that becomes possible? We have accepted that people can kill themselves. I suspect that many of us have difficulties with that. Some people do not really like the idea of us having the right or ability to end our lives when we wish. Most of us are conscious of the harm it does to do it out of time. But to do it properly, in a way where everyone is drawn in and there is consent and understanding, is a joyful experience; it is not terrible.

A number of the problems that have been raised relate to the medicalisation of the process. I do not see why doctors should be involved; the Swiss do not involve doctors. I want someone whom I love next to me should I choose that way out; I do not want it done impersonally by a doctor. I would not impose it on a doctor that I know, and I certainly do not want some impersonal doctor. What I require of the medical profession in these controlled days is the means. It is not fair to chuck yourself in front of a bus or train, or even off Beachy Head, or to cut your wrists in the middle of a field. It imposes so much difficulty and inconvenience on other people. To do it in a way where you do not impact on society requires someone's help to make it possible. I can no longer have a revolver in my drawer; a knife is an extremely messy and uncertain business. Medication is the most sensible way of doing it. If there was a court procedure or if there was some other means of proving that what was being done was right and was not murder, and I just took the relevant prescription along to a chemist and got the dose, why the need to involve a doctor at all?

I very much hope that this debate, if not this Bill, will lead to the facilities that happened to be there for two people I loved being there for me when my time comes.