Assisted Dying Law Debate in House Of Lords LIVE

Assisted Dying Law Debate in House Of Lords LIVE

Lord Falconer said a “limited” change was needed to the law to give the terminally ill choice on their deaths.

He insisted that the “final decision must always be made by the patient”, with safeguards to prevent “abuse”

But Lord Tebbit said it would create “too much of a financial incentive for the taking of life”.Syringe and a bottle of morphine

Lord Falconer’s bill which would allow doctors to prescribe a lethal dose to terminally ill patients judged to have less than six months to live.

About 130 peers have requested to speak in a debate on the subject, which started shortly after 10:00 BST.

‘Lonely death’

The bill is expected to get a second reading in the Lords, but without government backing MPs are unlikely to get a chance to debate it in the Commons, meaning it will not become law.

Prime Minister David Cameron has said he is not “convinced” by the arguments for legalising assisted dying but the bill has won the backing of Lib Dem Care Minister Norman Lamb.

The legislation would allow a terminally ill, mentally competent adult, making the choice of their own free will and after meeting strict legal safeguards, to request life-ending medication from a doctor.

Baroness Grey-Thompson recorded a personal film for This Week

Two independent doctors would be required to agree that the patient had made an informed decision to die.

Opening the debate in a full house, Lord Falconer – a former Labour Lord Chancellor – told peers the current legal situation permitted the wealthy to travel abroad to take their own life while others were left “in despair” to suffer a “lonely, cruel death”.

“The current situation leaves the rich able to go to Switzerland, the majority reliant on amateur assistants, the compassionate treated like criminals and no safeguards in terms of undue pressure now,” he said.

He said many people were so worried about “implicating their loves ones in a criminal enterprise” by asking them for help to die that they took their lives “by hoarding pills or putting a plastic bag over their heads”.

Legalising assisted dying, he argued would allow a “small number” of people who did want to “go through the last months, weeks, days and hours” to die with dignity.

“The current situation leaves the rich able to go to Switzerland, the majority reliant on amateur assistants, the compassionate treated like criminals and no safeguards in terms of undue pressure now,” he said.

He said many people were so worried about “implicating their loves ones in a criminal enterprise” by asking them for help to die that they took their lives “by hoarding pills or putting a plastic bag over their heads”.
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Lord Falconer’s bill was backed by Lord Avebury, the former Liberal MP, who was diagnosed with terminal blood cancer in 2011.

He urged peers to consider helping thousands of people who he said faced “weeks of torture before they die a means of escaping from that unnecessary fate”.

‘Confronting mortality’

But the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu said the proposed legislation was “not about relieving pain and suffering” but was based on the misguided belief that “ending your life in circumstances of distress is an assertion of human freedom”.

He told peers that his mother had been given weeks to live after being diagnosed with throat cancer but, with the help of others, had lived for a further 18 months.

“Dying well is a positive achievement of a task which belongs to our humanity.”

Calling for a Royal Commission to be set up to examine the issue, he added: “This is far too a complex and sensitive issue to rush through Parliament and to decide on the basis of competing personal stories.”

The bill was attacked by former Tory cabinet minister Lord Tebbit, who said it could put pressure on people who are unable to care for themselves to “do the decent thing to cease to be a burden on others”.

Lord Tebbit, whose wife was paralysed in the 1984 Brighton bombing, also suggested legalising assisted dying could lead to personal and financial disputes between loved ones and relatives.

“The bill would be a breeding ground for vultures, both corporate and individual. It creates too much financial incentive for the taking of life.”
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View the debate on BBC Parliament live by clicking here
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