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Parliament must act to fix our “barbaric” law

Baroness Boothroyd supports assisted dying
Baroness Boothroyd: “…there must be robust and fool proof safeguards in this country for those who are terminally ill and wish to die with dignity. This is a moral issue whose time has come and Parliament should resolve it.”

The former leader of the House of Lords, Baroness Jay of Paddington presented a Question for Short Debate in the House of Lords on Wednesday evening:

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they continue to be satisfied with the Director of Public Prosecutions’ Guidelines on prosecution for assisted suicide.

As the law stands, prosecuting guidelines from the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) effectively forgive compassionate amateur assistance to die, but prohibit compassionate assistance from healthcare professionals.

To some this is an adequate compromise, to others, including Dignity in Dying and its supporters in the House of Lords, this approach fails to safeguard patients, protect family members and ensure the medical profession can be involved.

You can read a full transcript of the debate here

Supportive peers speak out for a more compassionate law

Baroness Jay of Paddington

“The key question is whether it is sensible for the Government and Parliament effectively to condone compassionate amateur assistance to die while prohibiting professional medical assistance which might be equally compassionate and more skilfully gentle

.…

Surely it would be much safer to have a statutory law which allows assisted dying for mentally competent terminally ill adults in restricted and safeguarded circumstances—circumstances which could then be established and assessed while the person is still alive.”

Lord Falconer of Thoroton

My Bill says that we should look at the issue before the death has occurred and recognise that it is not one that can be dealt with by a botch in the criminal law.

It should be dealt with by examining the cases in advance and seeing whether compassion is involved, thereby providing proper protection to people who might otherwise be the victim of coercion.”

Baroness Boothroyd

“Few people have the means to end their days in a Swiss clinic where suicides are a paying proposition. Of course there must be robust and fool proof safeguards in this country for those who are terminally ill and wish to die with dignity. This is a moral issue whose time has come and Parliament should resolve it.”

Lord Warner

“Parliament needs to wake up and smell the coffee. It should stop listening to the noisy minority of opponents and start listening to the majority of our fellow citizens who want to see a change in the law in this area.

The cruelty of making terminally ill people prolong their lives when they wish not to and then threatening to prosecute their relatives who help them to secure the peaceful end they seek is increasingly seen for what it is: barbaric.”

You can read a full transcript of the debate here

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