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Assisted Dying - Question for Short Debate

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 8:08 pm on 6th March 2017.

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Photo of The Earl of Glasgow The Earl of Glasgow Liberal Democrat 8:08 pm, 6th March 2017

My Lords, I have long associated myself with the campaign to legalise assisted dying in Britain—as long, of course, as the necessary safeguards are in place. Judging by a number of polls taken over the last 20 years, more than 75% of the public also want to see assisted dying legalised. They believe, like me, that in the right circumstances it is a compassionate and humane way of alleviating suffering for those who are terminally ill. It also helps to alleviate the suffering of the patient’s family, who, for many months sometimes, must witness the indignity, pain and distress of someone they love.

Yet still in Britain, helping someone to end such misery is a criminal offence. Some feel compelled to travel to a strange clinic in Switzerland where assisted dying is legal, but in British law the relatives are committing a criminal offence by assisting the patients to get there. In practice, the public prosecutor rarely prosecutes and rightly so, but it shows the law to be an ass. It is surely time the Government took assisted dying more seriously.