“Suffering will continue as long as MPs turn a blind eye to dying people’s wishes”
The Assisted Dying Bill introduced by Rob Marris MP was defeated this afternoon, denying terminally ill people choice over their own deaths. The Bill was the first Private Members Bill of the new parliament, and the first attempt to change the law on assisted dying in the House of Commons since 1997.
The Bill was voted out 118 – 330 at Second Reading following 4 hours of debate.
Despite an intensive campaign for a change in the law which secured support from former DPP Sir Keir Starmer QC MP, former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey, The Sun, tens of thousands of the public and compelling stories from numerous terminally ill people such as Bob Cole, MPs decided to reject a safeguarded assisted dying law in preference for the current law which demonstrably neither provides choice for dying people nor protects the vulnerable.
It is welcome that the House of Commons has begun to debate assisted dying and it is important that this has started early in the Parliament so we can make the change in the law the public demands over the next five years.
Sarah Wootton, Chief Executive of Dignity in Dying, said:
“It’s great that we’ve had the first substantive debate in the House of Commons for almost twenty years. This is an important first step in changing the law for terminally ill people. However the vote only goes to show just how ridiculously out of touch MPs are with the British public on the issue. With the overwhelming majority of the public supporting the Bill it is an outrage that MPs have decided to retain the current law which the former Director of Public Prosecutions, the House of Lords, and the public all believe is leading to suffering and injustice for dying people.
“By rejecting the Bill Parliament has in effect decided to condone terminally ill people ending their own lives but refused to provide them the adequate protection they need. Suffering will continue as long as MPs turn a blind eye to dying people’s wishes. Dying people deserve better.
“Those who can afford to will go to Dignitas. One Briton is already travelling abroad to die every fortnight while over 300 terminally ill people are taking their own lives at home, usually alone and in dangerous ways, every year. The Assisted Dying Bill would have put rigorous safeguards in place, not only to give dying people choice, but also to better protect them. Strong and robust safeguards before someone ends their life would be far safer than the current ‘after the event’ inquiry.
“The law as it stands clearly does not command the support of the public. Parliament has failed to act and if it fails to recognise its responsibility over the next five years then the Courts have no choice but to act instead, to end this suffering and injustice.”
Christie Arntsen, who has incurable cancer, from Witney said:
“I felt compelled to speak out on assisted dying because I wanted to see change. As someone with cancer this issue directly affects me. My only choice to control my own death is to go to Dignitas and break the law, and this will be something that I now have to consider. When the cancer starts to grow again or spreads, I will not be having any further treatment that will have a negative impact on me. Why am I not allowed to make my own decision over my own death, as I have done throughout my life. I feel like they have said my wishes don’t matter.”
Lesley Close, who accompanied her brother John to Dignitas in 2003, from Amersham said:
“It is outrageous that MPs have chosen not to listen to the public, that they have chosen to ignore the suffering of terminally ill people. I was one of the first people to accompany someone to Dignitas – my brother John had motor neurone disease and went to Zurich to die in 2003. I promised him I would do whatever I could to change the law and I am not giving to give up now. I am ashamed that MPs have decided that it is acceptable for British people to go abroad to have compassionate help to die or to take whatever steps they can to end their lives at home, alone, in order to have control over their deaths. That cannot be a more satisfactory situation than passing a law which would provide safeguards and transparency while giving dying people choice. People like my brother, mentally competent terminally ill adults, will continue to suffer intolerably as a result of this appalling decision.”
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Dignity in Dying
Dignity in Dying campaigns for greater choice, control and access to services at the end of life. It advocates providing terminally ill adults with the option of an assisted death, within strict legal safeguards, and for universal access to high quality end-of-life care.