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Assisted Dying - Question for Short Debate

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 8:12 pm on 6th March 2017.

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Photo of Lord Rees of Ludlow Lord Rees of Ludlow Crossbench 8:12 pm, 6th March 2017

My Lords, even with the best palliative care, some will survive beyond the stage where they feel life is worth living. That is why 300 people a year with terminal illnesses commit suicide and why the lives of loved ones are sometimes ended in ways that are, strictly, illegal. Those acts may not result in prosecution, but a shadow of criminality hangs over them and adds to the grief of those whose motive is compassion. A well-drafted Bill would allow assisted suicide, with safeguards. Few would choose this route, but many of us would be comforted by knowing that that option was available.

Support for such a measure is just as strong among the disabled. Among this majority is Stephen Hawking, my friend and colleague for 40 years. His achievement against all odds has been astonishing. He still craves new experiences and does not want to die. He thinks that suicide would be wrong unless one were in great pain, which, thankfully, he is not. None the less—this is the key point—he says that the disabled should have the option, as others do, to end their lives. Like him, I firmly support an assisted dying Bill and hope that the “nudge” from the Supreme Court will give it a fairer wind.