Assisted Dying for the Terminally Ill Bill: Select Committee Report

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 7:35 pm on 10th October 2005.

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Photo of Baroness Tonge Baroness Tonge Liberal Democrat 7:35 pm, 10th October 2005

My Lords, I want to address common concerns expressed in letters that I have received from all over the country by referring to replies from—yes—the Oregon Medical Association and the Dutch Medical Association in response to questions that I put to them. Neither of these organisations gave evidence to the Select Committee, but they are representative of doctors who are putting the law in their country into practice.

Many articles have been written and talks given. I have received many letters expressing worry that the disabled, the elderly and the terminally ill will be under pressure to die to save relatives or society the pain of looking after them. In my experience, the reverse is often true. It is the relatives themselves who cannot bear the thought of the death of a loved one and so will encourage those people caring for the dying to keep their loved one alive at all costs. In our modern society, it is death that must die in many people's eyes. Many hospital doctors are afraid that relatives will sue if they think that enough was not done to save their loved one, so the suffering is prolonged.

I have seen people kept alive at all costs. People are tortured to death—I mean that—instead of being allowed to die with dignity and in peace. My noble friend Lord Carlile said that he preferred death by nature. I wish him luck. If he prefers death by nature, he should not go near any doctors when he is dying, because I suspect that that would not happen.