Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Assisted Dying Bill Defeated

Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 11th September, 2015

imageRob Marris MP’s Private Member’s bill to legalise assisted dying for terminally ill patients who wished to end their lives was defeated in the House of Commons today by a surprisingly large majority: 330 to 118. Even if the vote had gone the other way, it is doubtful whether the Government would have made the necessary parliamentary time available to ensure its passage into law, as Prime Minister David Cameron and many of his Ministers had stated their opposition. But I know many millions of Britons will be disappointed, including some terminally ill patients and their families who had been campaigning for the right to dignity in dying. The moral issues involved are of course very complex and it was no surprise to see faith leaders, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, intervene strongly to denounce the bill. But on the other side the compassionate arguments were strong. I have known three dear friends whose quality of life deteriorated so rapidly that they rationally wished a painless way out towards the end. One had already booked herself into the clinic in Zurich where voluntary euthanasia is practised, though in the event she was prevented from going. The other two had miserable final weeks that were as distressing for those near and dear to them as they were to the patients themselves, who repeatedly stated their wish to go to sleep and never wake up again. I know that pain relief and the level of care in hospices can make things much more comfortable for terminally ill patients and the dedication of staff in such places is inspiring, but not everyone wishes to follow the hospice route. It is of course of prime importance that people living in countries where assisted dying is legal do not come under pressure from family or partners to take a decision they do not fully wish for themselves. But I know that if I had been an MP today I would have voted for Mr Marris’s bill and my heart goes out to those people who have campaigned bravely for the measure. Some doctors will in reality help some terminally ill patients find release when begged by the patient to do so, as they have in the past, but doctors, family and others in such circumstances should not be put in the invidious position of thus becoming criminals open to prosecution.


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