Assisted Suicide — Question for Short Debate

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 9:02 pm on 5th March 2014.

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Photo of Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills), Opposition Whip (Lords), Shadow Spokesperson (Cabinet Office) 9:02 pm, 5th March 2014

My Lords, this is about giving people choice in what must be the hardest decision of their life. I respect those who would not want assistance to die if they were terminally ill and in pain, but I hope that they do not prevent others having that option.

Suicide is legal, but without professional assistance we risk uncertain or painful suicide attempts, such as the throwing down the stairs that we have already heard about. If I were in that position, I would want to die with the safety and security of family or medical professionals by my side and without their being at risk of prosecution. If I want that, I want others to have that right.

The DPP’s policy has helped by indicating that assistance motivated by compassion is “unlikely” to be prosecuted. However, there is still a risk at the time of the act and an interview under caution, as we have heard. The current law is not working. About 250 Britons have travelled to Switzerland to get help, hundreds are illicitly given overdoses without any safeguards in place and countless people are helped to die by family members behind closed doors. These should not be the only options for dying people. We need assisted dying to be legalised, albeit with robust safeguards, so that the terminally ill can take control of their own ending but with society ensuring that there are strict criteria to prevent abuse.