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Second Reading

Part of Assisted Dying Bill [HL] – in the House of Lords at 1:16 pm on 18th July 2014.

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Photo of Baroness Grey-Thompson Baroness Grey-Thompson Crossbench 1:16 pm, 18th July 2014

Apologies—the noble and learned Lord is not in the place where he was sitting earlier. I listened with great interest to what the noble and learned Lord said. He must stop being reluctant to discuss the precise figures. People need to know how many people this may affect.

Professor Theo Boer, a regulator of Dutch law, said that recent developments and extensions were not intended by the legislators who drafted the original law. We should listen to him.

Why are people worried? It is because many disabled people are not terminally ill. However, many terminally ill people experience some sort of impairment and there is a great deal of confusion around that. There is a myth that our lives are so tragic or painful that we must want to end them. Just this week I was told, “You must have wanted to kill yourself many times in your life”. No, I have not. I have experienced excruciating pain. When I was 19, I snapped a metal rod off my spine that came out through my skin, but I have never considered killing myself. The fact is, however, that many people expected that I would ask for that. What if those people were related to me?

Becky got in touch with me this morning and said that a doctor very recently told her—I quote verbatim—“You cost the NHS too much money. It would be better off if you were dead”. A mum wrote to me to tell me about her son who, at a low point in his life, expressed a desire not to carry on. She checked the criteria in the Bill and found that he would qualify. He is not terminally ill, as we think about it—he has severely complicated diabetes.

Some of the cases highlighted in the media concern people who are not terminally ill and would supposedly not fit the terms of the Bill. However, this raises concerns that this is just the tip of the iceberg or an attempt to soften public opinion. The charity Care has shown that those who support the Bill in principle change their mind when they are presented with the reality of assisted suicide. Then the percentage of those who support it drops from 73% to 43%.

Finally, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, wrote in his own inquiry, when referring to whether this provision was for disabled people:

“not at this moment in time”.

This is why I and many others are deeply worried.