Assisted Dying for the Terminally Ill Bill: Select Committee Report

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:35 pm on 10th October 2005.

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Photo of Lord Beaumont of Whitley Lord Beaumont of Whitley Green 6:35 pm, 10th October 2005

My Lords, I am, as most of your Lordships will know, a priest of the Church of England and, I hope, a theologian. I have never understood why some people think that the only theologians are those who are academics. I once attended a conference of clergy and committed laity of the Church of England at which, in his summing-up, the chairman said:

"Next time we meet we must invite a theologian".

In my book all thinking human beings are theologians because we all, like Jacob, wrestle with the idea of God.

I find nothing in the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, which I attempt to follow, which would exclude from the free will which God has given us the right to decide on ending my life responsibly. That being so, I have signed a so-called "living will" detailing the circumstances in which I want to be allowed or even assisted to die.

As I do not want to be a hypocrite, all rights which I claim for myself I wish also to claim for others. Whether or not they wish to exercise them, they should have those rights. Of course I hope that I shall never have to exercise them myself. I believe that this Bill, which gives people the right to make their own decisions, is the right one.

I—like, I am told, the majority of clergy—am an ardent reader of crime novels. The reason for that I believe is that we need to be reminded, against all the superficial evidence, that Easter Day does follow Good Friday and that the Texas Rangers will eventually breast the hill, and that when they come over the hill they will be better than the Texas Rangers who might come over the hill today.

I therefore am more aware than most people of the ingenuity of those who wish to kill others for their profit. And I will be as concerned as anyone to make sure that all the necessary safeguards are in place. But about the principle I have no doubt at all; this Bill is long overdue and it is time we got on with it.