The House of Lords Debate on the Assisted Dying Bill

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About 125 members of the House of Lords spoke during a ten-hour debate on the Assisted Dying Bill on Friday 18 July.

Some who spoke for the Bill made interesting comments:

Lord Avebury claimed to speak for Christians suggesting that those who were against the Bill lacked compassion. He commented that this Bill would help ‘tens of thousands’, yet Lord Joffe whose bill was defeated some years ago and the figures promoted by the pro-euthanasia lobby suggest that only 0.2% of the population would be able to take advantage of this legislation if it became law.

Lord Birt spoke of us living in a ‘free secular society’ and Baroness Blackstone stated that ‘most Catholics support assisted dying’ without providing any evidence that Catholics had even been asked for their opinion!

Those who spoke against the Bill were much more persuasive in their arguments:

Lord Tebbit countered the argument stating that we do not have the right to take our own lives, even though we do have the capacity to take such action. He added that the Bill would be ‘A breeding ground for vultures, both corporate and individual.’

Baroness Finlay of Llandaff stated that the Bill was a ‘whisker from euthanasia. She cast doubt on whether a doctor could ever give an accurate estimate on whether a patient had just six months to live and also remarked that a second doctor had countersigned the death certificates of over 170 who were murdered by Dr Shipman, so the requirement for two doctors to agree offered no protection whatsoever.

Lord Mawhinney also mentioned the use of 2 doctors when agreeing to an abortion and cited the case of the Lockerbie Bomber who was released on compassionate grounds because he had a terminal illness, yet lived far beyond the few months predicted by the medical team.
Lord Mackenzie, a nurse for much of his professional life said the Bill does not support the ethical basis of nurses and reminded the House that it will be nurses that carry out these terminations, not the doctor who authorised them.

Lord Brennan, a barrister, stated that the Bill ‘dismantles the Hippocratic oath’ taken by doctors and Lord Empey stated that the Bill will have consequences for the health professionals who are involved.

Perhaps most worrying of all was the comment by Lord Harries of Pentregarth who said that supporters of the Bill saw it as a first step …

For my own part, putting aside the religious objections to taking any life there are a number of consequences and problems with legalising assisted suicide.

It will likely lead to the establishment of private clinics who will carry out a service assisting suicides for financial reward rather than out of compassion. That will ensure that pressure is not only brought to bear on the elderly and infirm who are seen in our society as a drain on resources, especially the NHS.

Such deaths will not be properly investigated by the Police. At present, the DPP issues guidelines regarding those who assist in the death of another, but a full Police investigation is conducted to ensure there has been no foul play. Such domestic murders will be much easier to cover up in the future when conducted under the auspices of this Bill.

The existence of this new legislation will encourage ‘suicide tourism’ just as women come over from Ireland to have abortions. What an indictment on our society that would be. The country would be known as the vendors of death.

The Theft Act does not prevent theft, the Sexual Offences Act does not stop sexual assaults from occurring and the Assisted Dying Bill will not eradicate suffering and pain any more than we can completely eradicate the pangs of childbirth..

None of us had any control over the circumstances, timing and nature of our birth, which was in God’s hands; so why do mere humans think they should exercise such control over death?

There is also an alternative and that is palliative care. This should be made available to everyone through the hospice movement. It is a sad indictment on society that public funds only offer a derisory 10% of the cost of running a hospice, the other 90% comes from local people through fundraising. Doesn’t that say something about the hospice movement? Yes, ordinary people support it and are prepared to pay for it out of their own pockets.

We all have to die. Great advances have been made in palliative care but the bottom line is, some of us, like Jesus himself will have to suffer in the lead up to death. Personally, I am not worried about death, nor about the manner of my death as long as I do so in a state of grace.

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