Assisted Dying for the Terminally Ill Bill: Select Committee Report

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:04 pm on 10th October 2005.

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Photo of Baroness David Baroness David Labour 5:04 pm, 10th October 2005

My Lords, I congratulate the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Clashfern, and his committee on producing an excellent report. It is a very thorough report and very helpful to all of us who understand the difficulties inherent in the subject. Nevertheless, it seems to come down fairly strongly in wanting the Bill of the noble Lord, Lord Joffe, to be reintroduced into the House this autumn and for it to go to a Committee of the Whole House with the safeguards and amendments that the noble Lord, Lord Joffe, has agreed to make. I hope that the Bill will go through and finally become law.

I have been a member of the Voluntary Euthanasia Society for a long time. I am delighted that, at its AGM in November, it will vote for a change of name to Dignity in Dying, removing the word "euthanasia", which tends to alarm people. My proxy vote is already in. Compassion for those who are terminally ill seems of primary importance.

I strongly believe in personal autonomy and the right of individuals to decide when and how they die. As somebody aged 92, I think it is patronising for opponents of the Bill to suggest that elderly people are unable to make informed decisions about their lives, as the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas, has said. If I were terminally ill, I believe that I would be the only person with the right to decide how I die and whether I preferred palliative care to assisted dying. It would provide me with an additional option on how to end my life, which I would find tremendously reassuring, whether or not, in the end, I decided to exercise that option.

I note that in paragraph 52, a consultant in palliative care, on the basis of his own experience, felt that patients requesting assistance to end their lives tended to be people who wished to be in control—people who are not willing, or prepared, to engage the issues that may underlie the problems that arise. I resent that, although I have to admit that some of my children sometimes refer to me as a control freak.