This endorsement of compassion for those facing difficult decisions at the end-of-life is a landmark in the evolution of greater choice at the end-of-life.
The debate was heralded, by Richard Ottaway MP (who tabled the motion) as the most remarkable of his 24 years as an MP.
What made yesterday’s debate remarkable was the stories behind the issue.
Stephen Metcalfe MP talked about the journey he had been on with this issue, and how his friendship with Nicky Dalladay, suffering from MS has shaped his views and led him to support the DPP’s guidelines. Jim Fitzpatrick referenced the difficult deaths people exposed to asbestos can suffer, and his experience of that.
Heidi Alexander MP and Penny Mordaunt MP both referred to Geraldine McClelland who was dying from lung cancer and travelled abroad to die in December so that she could be in control of the end of her life. Caroline Lucas described the story of a mother who reluctantly accompanied her daughter Lizzy, who had MS, to Dignitas last year. Social services found out about Lizzy’s plans to travel abroad to die, and the DPP’s guidelines helped to ensure that Lizzy could have the death she wanted. Caroline Lucas used this example to illustrate that regulation, clarity and openness are important in decisions of this kind.
But it was Paul Blomfield MP’s who perhaps gave the most moving speech. To a silent chamber he recounted the death of his father last summer. His father was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer, and he made the decision, alone, to end his life rather than suffering what might have been an undignified death.
Parliament has now accepted that in some cases, the crime of assisting a death should not be prosecuted. They must now ask themselves whether it is acceptable for their constituents to have to travel abroad for a dignified death, or attempt to end their lives at home, or whether an assisted dying law would offer better protection for all. We believe the latter, and hope that the constructive and intelligent debate can continue to ensure that ultimately we can all have what we consider to be a good death.