Assisted Dying Bill
Hundreds of you have got in touch with me about the Assisted Dying Bill. The Bill comes up for debate in the House of Commons this Friday (11th September).
Over the past weeks and months I have sent individual replies to as many people as possible. However, the sheer quantity of e-mails I have received – both for and against the Bill – means that I have not been able to get back to everybody before it comes up for debate.
In order to reach as many local people ahead of the debate as possible, you can see a copy of my initial response below, which outlines my views as well as links to more information about the Bill.
I also wanted to share with you a copy of a speech which was circulated to me from Keir Starmer MP. Keir is the former Director of Public Prosecutions and in this capacity oversaw 80 decisions not to prosecute cases of assisted suicide. You can read the speech here. I will be attending tomorrow’s debate and will be listening to the arguments put forward on both sides. However, I think the arguments which Keir puts forward have a great deal of force.
Finally, I should also say that if the vote on Friday goes in favour of the Bill, this does not mean that this the end of the story and that it has been passed. It will mean that the bill will proceed to line by line scrutiny and amendment in what is called the Committee and Report stages , before coming back to the full House of Commons for a Yes or No vote at what is called Third Reading. After that, the Bill would go the House of Lords for further consideration. If the Bill is defeated tomorrow however, it will not go any further. I thought I would clarify this now so everybody is aware of what will happen after tomorrow’s vote.
My response to enquiries
Thank you for recently contacting me about Rob Marris’ Assisted Dying Bill. I appreciate your taking the time to get in touch and share your views.
I wanted to respond in advance of the debate scheduled for September to set out my position and to make clear that I understand that end of life care and the law concerning assisted dying are extremely complex and emotive issues, and that there are strongly held ethical and moral arguments on both sides.
Given the sensitivity and importance of this issue, I believe it is vital that high quality support, guidance and palliative care are available, well-resourced, and that there is clarity on the law surrounding assisted dying.
Rob Marris’ Assisted Dying Bill would enable competent adults who are terminally ill to be provided, at their request, with specified assistance to end their own life. The Bill builds on previous attempts to introduce a debate on the issue by Lord Falconer in the last Parliament – and the recommendations of a report by the independent Commission on Assisted Dying from 2012, which found that ‘the current legal status of assisted dying is inadequate and incoherent’.
I know that this Bill has provoked strong views and it is important that the concerns of people on both sides of this debate are fully considered. That is why I appreciate you letting me know your views. It is also why I have attached an Explanatory Note on the proposed Bill as well as an article by Rob Marris on why he wants to introduce the Bill.
I am sympathetic to what Rob is trying to achieve with this Bill. I believe that people who are suffering at the end of their lives, should be given the choice and the power to decide with dignity when enough is enough. That is why I also wanted to take this opportunity to share with you testimonies by a number of people seeking support for the kind of measures in Rob Marris’ bill (visit http://www.dignityindying.org.uk/personal-stories/). I think many of them raise powerful points which, as an individual, I find difficult to ignore.
I absolutely understand concerns about misuse, so it is absolutely vital that any new law contains sufficient safeguards within it. There will rightly be a great deal of debate on designing such safeguards as the issue goes through parliament.
At the same time I also think there needs to be improved care for those with terminal illnesses in general. The hospice movement and others have been doing ground breaking work in palliative care for a number of years now and it is essential they get the support they deserve. Ensuring more support for carers and improved facilities to organisations who can offer specialised palliative care will be vital to preserving quality of life and dignity in death whether or not this Bill becomes law.
To find out more about the Bill available on Parliament’s website here: http://bit.ly/1LxCWlo.
Thank you again for writing to me about this issue and if I can be of any further assistance on this or any other matter, please do not hesitate to get in touch again.
Richard Burden MP