Lidington: Why I’m against assisted dying legislation

David Lidington MP
David Lidington MP
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Recently, the House of Lords debated the Assisted Dying Bill, the intention of which is to make it possible for someone suffering from a terminal illness to have help to die without those friends or relatives being at any risk of prosecution.

I don’t know whether this Bill will pass the Lords and come to the Commons.

Euthanasia and Assisted Dying are issues that divide politicians of all parties.

Votes on these subjects are treated as issues of conscience, with no official party line.

But the fact that particular tragic cases have gone to court means that Parliament is going to have to look at the question again.

Supporters of assisted dying base their case on arguments about human dignity and freedom. Someone near death, perhaps with a painful or degenerative disease, should be able to get help to end their life at a time of their choice.

The Lords Bill provides safeguards against abuse, such as the need for two doctors to certify that the patient is mentally capable and within six months of death.

I believe that the motives of those proposing the Bill are honourable.

But I am not persuaded by their argument.

In my constituency casework I deal with many people who suffer from bouts of mental illness, most frequently from depression.

Many think for a time that their lives are worthless but do later recover optimism and sense of purpose.

I have also met frail, elderly people who worry about becoming a burden on their families.

If assisted dying were legalised, I fear that some of those people would feel under real or imagined pressure to opt for death.

Nor am I reassured by the safeguards. How well would those two doctors really know the patient?

How could we avoid the appalling situation over the Abortion Act where a small minority of doctors have been willing to presign authorisations without even seeing the patient?

My opinion is that our priority should be improving end-of-life care both in our hospitals and for people to die at home.

I would be very interested in constituents’ views.