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Assisted Dying - Question for Short Debate

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 8:19 pm on 6th March 2017.

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Photo of Baroness Barker Baroness Barker Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Voluntary Sector) 8:19 pm, 6th March 2017

My Lords, the current legislative framework governing medically assisted dying is failing to protect patients, vulnerable people and medical professionals. Therefore, we on these Benches have a policy that in cases of terminal illness or severe, incurable and progressive physical illness where patients are without hope of recovery, medical doctors should legally be able to provide competent adults with assistance to die if they have expressed the wish to do so, within narrowly defined circumstances. That assistance should be strictly limited to qualifying people who are able to demonstrate, to the satisfaction of a doctor with detailed knowledge of their illness, as well as an independent specialist, that their request to die is voluntary, well considered, persistent and motivated by existing or inevitable unbearable suffering.

Requests for medical assistance to die must be made in writing, after a full discussion with each of the doctors about the situation, prospects and options for palliative care. They must also be countersigned by a practising solicitor who has been satisfied that the patient qualifies and that all procedures have been followed. The law should protect the right of medical and legal practitioners not to participate in the process of assisting a patient to die, but they must make a referral. For those reasons we support the noble Baroness, Lady Jay, in her call to take the growing evidence base from America.