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The Right to Die
The House of Commons recently rejected what is known as the “Right to Die Bill”. The vote wasn’t close; 118 MPs voted for and 330 against.
At the time there was a great deal of public discussion of the subject but it seems likely that there will not be any further debating of the subject in the Houses of Parliament for some years to come.
The Right to Die Bill would legalise the request for competent adults who are terminally ill to obtain assistance with ending their lives. Requests would have been subject to oversight by both medical professionals and the Family Division of the High Court.
Such a debate is important for all of us but I also think that as well as the debate itself we are lucky to be living and working during a time when hospice care and palliative care are very high on the agenda and the progress that has been made with control of pain especially has improved so dramatically.
So what were the arguments on both sides?
- The key argument in favour was the patient’s right to choose.
- That religious views should not be imposed on everyone.
- Dignity in dying should be as important as dignity in life.
- Those in favour believed that concerns about the pressures that could be placed on vulnerable people could be dealt with by legislating for adequate procedural safeguards by one or more medical practitioners, or the involvement of the family court.
- “Ill and disabled people may feel under pressure to end their lives”.
- They may be concerned about the cost of the medical treatment needed to keep them alive.
- “They may not want to be a ‘burden’ on friends and family.”
- There were also concerns that any initial legal change which legalises assisted suicide for terminally ill people could then lead to relaxation of the legislation to those without any such illness?
Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which dictates ‘the right to respect for private and family life’, has been legally challenged as to whether the offence of assisted suicide is compatible with this human rights legislation.
Many of us know of Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson the renowned Paralympian who has said: “It is sadly not simply a case of suffering versus compassion. It is far more complex issue than that. In other jurisdictions that have some form of assisted suicide, pain is near the bottom of the reasons that are given. Being a burden to others is at the top of the list. That is a very sad state of affairs.”
Would a change in the law have been a concern to you?
Please let us know what you think.
Sheila Scott OBE - QCS Care Strategy Consultant