Assisted Dying for the Terminally Ill Bill: Select Committee Report

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 8:30 pm on 10th October 2005.

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Photo of Baroness Noakes Baroness Noakes Spokespersons In the Lords, Treasury, Spokespersons In the Lords, Work & Pensions & Welfare Reform 8:30 pm, 10th October 2005

My Lords, we are not much beyond halfway down our speakers' list. Noble Lords might therefore be glad to know that I have left my prepared speech on the Bench behind me. I will briefly make one or two points.

My purpose in putting my name down to speak was to bring motor neurone disease to the attention of the House, a subject on which I have spoken before in your Lordships' House. Motor neurone disease is a horrible disease with final stages that many sufferers fear, and rightly so. It ultimately involves complete paralysis, loss of physical control and pain. The real cruelty, however, is that it involves an unimpaired intellect.

Palliative care for motor neurone disease sufferers, of the quality and in the quantity of which we should be tolerant, is simply not available. I fully support those who say that we should continue to improve the availability of palliative care for all sufferers from terminal illness. Even if we had the most excellent palliative care, however, that would not be sufficient to avoid the need for the Bill. The sufferers of motor neurone disease will lose quality of life and dignity. Not everyone can cope with that. People have different thresholds. Only the individual can make a decision about how great a loss of quality of life they can tolerate.

I support the Bill, with all the safeguards in it. In doing so, I affirm, as a Christian, the sanctity of life. There is another principle, however, which is the right to a good death. The only person who can decide how to balance life and death is that individual, and it is that individual who should answer to God for that decision.