Assisted Dying for the Terminally Ill Bill: Select Committee Report

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 7:50 pm on 10th October 2005.

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Photo of Lord Desai Lord Desai Labour 7:50 pm, 10th October 2005

My Lords, I support the efforts of the noble Lord, Lord Joffe, to make death human. I supported him before the Select Committee produced its report and, if he fails this time, I shall continue to support him when he next tries the same thing again.

I have no doubt whatever that what he is doing is correct. Perhaps I should now sit down. However, I have two comments to make. It is not so much a matter of personal autonomy, although I like personal autonomy; it is a matter of only you being able to feel the pain that you are suffering. I can share pleasures; I can share laughter; I can share love, but if I am in deep and excruciating pain, I do not want a palliative or a painkiller, I want to get out of it. I do not believe in God. I do not believe that God brought me here—human beings brought me here with some assistance from a doctor. When I want to go I want to go with some assistance from a doctor. If that is not going to happen in this country, if I have the strength and co-operation, I shall go wherever I can die through my own choice. That is what I want. If fate is against it, that is tough luck. I ask your Lordships please to pass a Bill for atheists so that I can die in peace. That is what I want.

All kinds of comments have been made to the effect that we are not alone and are dependent on other fantastically interesting relationships. However, the people who say that we are in these lovely interdependent relationships are also the people who worry that if this Bill is passed people would kill their elderly relatives. We suspect that our relatives are as likely to kill us as to keep us alive. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of St Albans is not present, but he said that he had never heard a poem about personal autonomy. As he is not here, I shall not tell him how many poems I know about personal autonomy. However, he is wrong in thinking that people do not celebrate their own freedom to be what they are. We all should have a long life and a quick death. If society will not let me have that, I shall get it somehow or other.