Assisted Dying - April 2018
I am aware that there are many differing and strongly held views on this subject. Sadly I was unable to make the reception in Committee Room 17 on Monday 30 April, but met with campaigners separately.
When the Assisted Dying Bill was debated in 2015, it was neither a party nor a political matter but one of conscience. That is why I decided, after long consideration, to vote against it. This decision was not just based on personal reflection but came after having many conversations with people from the medical field and across our community. The majority of MPs, like me, also believed that the law as it stands is as far as we should go in permitting doctors to end life.
Legislating for widespread assisted suicide would threaten the lives of thousands. People in pain and close to death are extremely vulnerable and it would be wrong to allow them to see themselves as burdens when a simple route exists to relieve society of their presence. I do not believe that any safeguards will be sufficient to prevent those under enormous stress being exploited either by a medical system under pressure or others whose interests may not align with the patient.
Coping with terminal illness is distressing and difficult both for individuals and their families. Each case is heart-breaking and rightly evokes great compassion. Indeed each case should; every life is sacred and has value both to the individual and our whole community. That is why medical answers alone are not an adequate response. This is not a medical question but one of morality and ethics, which is why it is so fraught with difficulty. When patients are suffering, the priority for carers must be to alleviate pain. Palliative care is at the heart of our hospice movement and that is why I am proud to be a patron of Hospice in the Weald, here in Kent. But palliative care is not only about pain. It is about preparing a person to meet their death with the dignity and peace that we all deserve. This is not something that can ever be easy, no matter the age or infirmity of the individual.
There will be no immediate chance in the future for me to debate or vote on this issue again. Of course, I am still happy to receive your views on this matter.