My Lords, no one could dispute the good intentions of the Bill, but the road to hell is paved with good intentions. We have to be careful of the words we used. I noticed that the noble Baroness, Lady Greengross, referred several times to the “right” that we all have to take our own lives. We do not have that right; we have only the capacity to do it.
I will not repeat many of the points so well made by other speakers, but I am concerned at the financial incentives to end the lives of the frail, the handicapped, the ill and the elderly. They—or perhaps I should say, looking round the House, “we”—are a financial drain on our families, on pension funds, on the health service and, indeed, the economy generally. I and my wife—who, as the House will know, was crippled almost 30 years ago by IRA/Sinn Fein—have seen a lot of this. The Bill would provide a route to great savings in public and private expenditure, and to a great pressure on the elderly, the sick and the disabled to do the decent thing and cease to be a burden on others. Those who care for such people are all too familiar with the moments of black despair that prompt those words, “I would be better dead, so that you could get on with your life”.
Of course, supporters of the Bill say there is an effective barrier in it against such pressures. Two doctors must certify that the individual seeking help to commit suicide has fewer than six months to live and is of sound mind. Late last year, the Daily Telegraph exposed the doctors who performed six selective late abortions. We now know that there are doctors who pre-signed wads of blank certificates without even knowing the names of the women concerned, certifying, without seeing or knowing who they were, that their health would be at risk without a late abortion. The CPS left it to the BMA to deal with those doctors. The BMA did nothing. Will there be doctors pre-signing the certificates prescribed by the Bill? What will the sanctions be against those who do so?
Lastly, a few months ago an elderly lady asked me to advise her how she could ensure that her wish to leave all her assets to a charity for ex-service men and women could be entrenched against any attempt by other would-be beneficiaries to override it. “You see”, she said, “I have no children but I have several vultures awaiting my death”. This Bill will be a breeding ground for vultures, individual and corporate. It creates too much financial incentive for the taking of life.