Politicians from both Houses of Parliament were in attendance to hear Sir Patrick give a personal perspective and his fellow speakers give a factual overview of their experience of Oregon and Belgium where assisted dying has been legalised.
Veteran US campaigner Barbara Coombs Lee spoke about the practical results of the Death With Dignity Act in Oregon which has empowered patients – giving them greater choice and the reassurance that they can take control if they need to. Professor Jan Bernheim explained that the Belgian experience showed “after years of intense study there is no evidence of the slippery slope”.
The room was full to capacity and the mood of the audience was palpable – everyone was thinking the same thing: “what can we do?” When the audience started asking questions it was clear that this was a room ready to take action.
Chair of the All Party Group, Penny Mordaunt MP, recognised the need for more urgent action, noting that the issue had been “in Parliament’s ‘too tough’ in-tray for too long”. One of the MPs present, visibly moved, was inspired to pledge greater support for a change in the law. Combined, the emotional story of a preventable tragedy and the factual accounts of systems that work so much better than ours had given the room a new determination to challenge the status quo and think about how we can help people like Sir Patrick’s friend’s wife, who clearly need it so much.