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Assisted Dying - Question for Short Debate

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 8:07 pm on 6th March 2017.

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Photo of Lord Cavendish of Furness Lord Cavendish of Furness Conservative 8:07 pm, 6th March 2017

My Lords, the frequency with which this topic comes before us suggests to me a degree of attrition on the part of those who believe in assisted suicide. Much but not all of my thinking on the subject derives from my experience as a founder of St Mary’s Hospice in south Cumbria 25 years ago. I remain its patron, as appears in the register of interests.

My reason for opposing the introduction of new legislation may be summarised as follows. The evidence from North America is patchy and largely anecdotal. What we do hear is hardly reassuring. I remain unpersuaded that the existing law here needs changing—a view quite recently upheld convincingly in another place. Assisted suicide would dangerously alter the doctor-patient relationship. In countries where it is legal, doctors are discontinuing the practice because it impacts so heavily on their workload, with a consequence of doctor shopping, as the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, said. It also compromises the nursing profession: some have been quoted as saying that they would be forced to collude in taking life whether they like it or not. It would encourage elder abuse and suicide contagion, and it is unsafe. Greater access to our ever-improving brilliant system of palliative care is the safe, humane and moral alternative.