Today Parliament debated a very serious and contentious issue – The Assisted Dying Bill. Unfortunately, despite bobbing up and down for 4 and a half hours trying to catch the Speaker’s eye, I was not called to speak.
Below is the speech that I had intended to give:
The topic of today’s debate is one that will be close to a number of colleagues’ hearts, from both a personal perspective and after hearing the heart wrenching stories of their local constituents, I am grateful for the thought provoking contributions that we have heard today.
I understand and sympathise with those who are in favour of the reform. When my Grandmother was terminally ill I would have done anything to ease her pain and that of my family as we watched her shrink to bare bones and suffer.
It was heart-breaking and left us feeling utterly helpless and left her heart broken seeing our faces watch her go through that.
I must say that I have the immense sympathy with anyone who is in the difficult position of having to see a loved one suffering.
We have all received hundreds of moving personal stories which have each made compelling cases in their own right.
However the question we face today is far greater than whether we should alleviate suffering. Far greater! It raises the question of the remit of this House and our very own roles as Members of Parliament.
Let me first outline some of my concerns with the Bill:
Hundreds of Chippenham constituents have stressed to me their fears that legislation would put medical professionals in very difficult situations.
Are we really going to pressure, or even in theory compel, those that entered a profession to save lives to assist with the ending of it?
One of the strongest concerns I have is based on the long term implications of this bill. What will it mean in 20 or 30 years’ time?
Will assisted suicide be seen as the norm? Will our vulnerable feel compelled to opt for this course of action? Will they feel a sense of guilt if they choose instead to suffer and let their families watch them?
It may be starting with just terminal illnesses but there will of course be pressure to expand this given it is simply discriminatory, unfair and illogical that we would only offer assisted dying to a very small amount of those that currently campaign for it.
So, in the long run, would our elderly feel burdens on families and eventually will we create a country where they feel expected to opt for this course of action?
It is no secret that we have an ageing population and the cost of medical treatment is rising with technological advances. So can we really entertain a Bill which is the first step towards creating a sense of onerous burden on the backs of our sick and elderly?
I hear many mutterings that this is currently just purely for those with 6 months to live – but be not in denial – this is the first step – we cannot and should not open this can of worms.
And I for one think that this Bill is somewhat irrational as well as discriminatory and this in the long term would need addressing. Firstly why does 6 months has some grand significance? Why not 7 or 8 or 9 months?
Also if we are basing the argument on quality of life then why have any time limit at all? What if someone is enduring severe suffering and has a very limited quality life?
Surely if we are to make a law based upon the right of mankind to a certain quality of a life and the right to choose to end their own life then this bill is in fact deeply flawed.
Also the Bill requires the ability to administer their own death so it does not help those in most need of assistance. Something which with time would surely need addressing!
I watched both my Grandparents suffer in death – both lacking the palliative care that they deserved. My Grandmother suffered a slow death, defying medical predictions, she was in essence ‘taking her time with going.’ Is this how we want to view all our terminally ill if they do not opt for assisted dying?
This Bill aims to treat the symptoms and not the cause. We should be addressing the failings in our level of palliative care and working to ensure that no matter where you die you can die with support, care and comfort.
In my constituency Dorothy House does just that. A local hospice that has gained an incredible level of local respect. Having volunteered there I saw the impact they have on patients and also their families. Anyone who argues for the right for dignity in death needs to visit to see just how with the correct care this is possible.
Above all though – this is not a question about a Bill. Colleagues this is a question about our own roles as Members of Parliament – the very remit and nature of our duties.
We were elected to enable, assist and improve lives. I repeat lives.
This matter stretches far, far beyond the remit of this House and we do not have the right or the mandate to create a law which would assist with the ending of life and pressurise medical professionals to participate.
In conclusion we are at a junction. If we explore this Bill and eventually pass it then we are going down a one way road. If we do pass it then this would need to be the first step because we cannot discriminate if we are arguing that quality of life and choice are paramount.
Or we can take the other road and remember what we are here for.
We are Members of Parliament – man, not God. Here to protect constituents from feeling burdens and compelled to take this option, from the abuse and misuse that could occur and from compelling or pressurising our medics to assist with death after choosing careers to save lives.