Assisted Suicide — Question for Short Debate

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 9:08 pm on 5th March 2014.

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Photo of Lord Dubs Lord Dubs Labour 9:08 pm, 5th March 2014

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend Lady Jay for initiating this debate. When somebody is terminally ill, and probably in considerable pain, the last thing we want to do is to take away their peace of mind or the certainty of how they are going to face their remaining days. They are entitled to peace of mind, but I believe that the guidelines, helpful though they are, do not give a dying person that peace of mind and that certainty.

I am still haunted by a discussion that I had with a friend of mine shortly before he died of motor neurone disease, when he tapped out on the keyboard what he wanted. His main plea to me was to vote for a change in the law. We have heard today about slippery slopes, but I do not believe that is a good argument. All too often in this House we hear the expression “slippery slope” used as an argument against change. Surely, if we as a country have confidence in the integrity of our legal system, then if we were to change the law—as I hope we shall—we can do it in such a way that it does not represent a slippery slope but a considered change that Parliament has approved.

We have heard this evening that the Crown Prosecution Service considers every case individually. If I were to help somebody who was terminally ill and wanted such help, would I want the humiliation of having my case considered? Why should I be a case at all? Why should I not be entitled to do something, provided the safeguards are there, that is surely the right of the dying person to want from me?

Public opinion is totally on the side of change. In opinion polls the majority of people consistently say that they want a change in the law. Of course we must have safeguards, and I believe that the Bill of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, will provide those safeguards. I would not support any change in the law unless I was satisfied that we had adequate safeguards.

But in voting for change, I will say this: I cannot vote to deny others something I want for myself, and that is why I shall support the Bill of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer.