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Assisted Dying - Question for Short Debate

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 8:10 pm on 6th March 2017.

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Photo of Lord Alton of Liverpool Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench 8:10 pm, 6th March 2017

My Lords, the noble Baroness’s Question asks whether legislation in North America on what is called “assisted dying” forms an appropriate basis for such legislation here. I will answer that question in just one word: no.

Quite apart from any issues of principle, just look at what is now happening in Oregon. When Oregon’s assisted suicide law was enacted, it was to allow people with decision-making capacity to administer lethal drugs to themselves. Now a Bill has been presented to Oregon’s state legislature to enable someone to collect lethal drugs for a person who has lost capacity since they were prescribed and to administer those drugs to that person, as the Bill puts it,

“for the purpose of ending the patient’s life”.

So there we have it: assisted suicide plus, in some cases, euthanasia—not necessarily voluntary.

What price now all those repeated reassurances we have received from the “assisted dying” lobby that there would be no pressure to extend Oregon’s law? That and the evidence from Washington, where 62% of those in favour of physician-assisted suicide believe themselves to be a burden to friends and care givers, should give us pause. It is why the House of Commons voted against such proposals. Care and kill should never be used as synonyms.