Assisted dying

Coping with terminal illness is distressing and difficult both for the patient and their families. The issue of whether to permit assisted dying is an extremely difficult one with a variety of competing views.

The last occasion that there was a vote in Parliament on assisted dying was in 2015 and I voted against making a change to the current law. On that occasion, a change in the law was rejected in the House of Commons by 330 votes to 118.

At present, Parliament is not being asked to consider a change in the law, although I accept that may change. On issues such as these each MP will want to follow their own conscience and also consider the arguments put forward by their constituents and a range of experts as part of the process of reaching a decision.

On the last occasion, the parameters provided in the Bill for enabling assisted dying were drawn tightly and would have affected only a very limited number of cases. A strong case was being made on grounds of humanity to permit this to pass. I believe that terminally ill patients should receive the highest quality palliative support and that those patients, and their families, should be certain that their end-of life care will meet all of their needs.

However, I saw this issue in a wider context. Our judgement on this measure should be based on the principle, not on the presented boundaries for the application of that principle. On this basis, I was quite troubled by the proposal to make a change in the law that would have given official sanction to suicide in certain circumstances. The arguments from the medical profession and from those presenting ethical points of view weighed heavily with me. It is for these reasons that I decided to vote against the Bill in 2015.

If Parliament is asked to make future changes to the law on assisted dying, I absolutely commit to listening to all sides of the argument and keeping this difficult issue under review.