Assisted Suicide — Question for Short Debate

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 9:06 pm on 5th March 2014.

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Photo of Viscount Craigavon Viscount Craigavon Crossbench 9:06 pm, 5th March 2014

My Lords, I am pleased to support the balanced and forceful arguments made by the noble Baroness, Lady Jay, and other noble Lords in this debate. I believe that the path down which the Law Lords started in their last case in this Chamber was quite courageous, and although we have heard today of the shortcomings which still subsist in this process, nevertheless considerable progress has been made. This is so even though overwhelming public demand has not so far been satisfied. We in Parliament need to be courageous also.

The noble Lord, Lord Blair, who is unable to be here today, graphically highlighted in the previous debate on this subject the cumbersome process that the police are required to follow in any such cases of assisted dying. Under present rules, they cannot show the sensitivity that they might understandably like to tailor to the circumstances that they find in particular cases. Lengthy and distressing police processes are likely to be followed by the uncertainty of possible prosecution processes, even though the guidelines in the end throw up no need to prosecute.

The figure of at least 80% of the population supporting assisted dying has been generally accepted. For me, it is a continuing matter of shame that our fellow countrymen and women still have to go to Switzerland to avail themselves of what should be possible in this country. I feel that we as politicians should apologise to those who might continue to suffer, for some time to come, until legislation with full safeguards can be passed.

Although acknowledging—as everyone does—the role that good but not infallible palliative care can provide, I hope that those who are presently on the wrong side of history may one day also be able to apologise for the suffering they continue to cause.