Assisted Dying – who decides?

Evening all!

I’ve been meaning to write about this topic for months now, and here I find myself on a Friday night, at home, on-call from work, sat blogging about assisted dying. I almost don’t know where to start, and I think that is what has put me off writing about this before. I’ve tweeted about it a number of times over the last year or so, but never really put down my thoughts on the matter. The 2 key events that have taken place concerning assisted dying have been the rejection of proposed legislation in both the Scottish and UK Parliaments.

Patrick Harvie, leader of the Green Party in Scotland, took up the challenge of championing the legislation on behalf of the late Margo MacDonald in the Scottish Parliament. He pretty much summed-up how I feel, when he said:

Whatever view members take of the detailed operation of this legislation were we to pass it, I hope that all members who understand the basic principle, who accept the idea that human beings have the right to make a decision in circumstances such as a terminal or life-shortening illness, I hope that members will give this bill the opportunity to come forward to the next stage, and then we can begin to debate the amendments that come forward.”

What is the point of Parliament, if not to debate such fundamental matters of importance as those of life and death – literally, in this instance. What frustrates me the most is the fact that both in Scotland and in the rest of the United Kingdom, legislation has been brought forward and then not given the support or time necessary to have proper discussion and to further the debate. If this happens each time such legislation is proposed, then what is the point? I sincerely hope that with the re-introduction of Lord Falconer’s Assisted Dying Bill in the current session of the Westminster Parliament, that it progresses further than it managed to last time. For those who oppose it, what have you to fear by letting it progress through the committee stages of the House of Lords and into the House of Commons? This will give everybody the chance to analyse the proposed legislation in more detail and to suggest amendments, which can then in turn be debated. It would appear that the British public is moving towards an acceptance of the principle of assisted dying. If this is the case, then the Parliaments that represent them have a duty to debate, discuss, inform and educate on the matter.

Happily Lord Falconer’s Assisted Dying Bill has been re-introduced into the UK Parliament and had its first reading in the House of Lords on June 4th 2015:

http://services.parliament.uk/bills/2015-16/assisteddying.html

There is so much information online and in print about assisted dying. For those of you already interested in the topic then i’m sure you know where to look. However, for those of you that may be new to the debate then the link above is a good place to start. It contains a copy of the proposed legislation, and will take you through its progress.

If you hadn’t already figured it out, then I shall now nail my colours to the mast. I support the basic principle of assisted dying and a persons’ right to choose when they no longer wish to live, even if this involves the assistance of another party. This Bill should be allowed to progress through Parliament and receive the proper scrutiny it requires and deserves – on a matter of such importance.

I will come back to this topic in the future, but I just wanted to put it out there and declare my interest. Please feel free to get in touch, share your views and add to the debate.

Ben

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#TOTW (from 18-07-14): ‘Assisted dying law would lessen suffering says Falconer’

I make no apologies for returning yet again to the subject of assisted dying for my weekly blog update. It couldn’t really have been on anything else, given the events that have taken place. So my #TOTW was actually one of my own, following the passing of the second reading of Lord Falconer’s assisted dying bill in the Lords:

What great news! Common sense has prevailed and now more detailed scrutiny of the bill can take place

It was indeed great news that the Lords had a full day of meaningful debate on what has to be one of the most important ethical matters of our time – the whole issue of how we should have the choice to decide when we’ve had enough and want to call time on our own life. That’s the whole point of this debate. Fundamentally it comes down to an individual’s own choice to decide when they want to die, and not to go on suffering needlessly for months on end, until finally the body gives in and succumbs to the inevitable. The bill – which I have read (link below) – is about providing the individual with the choice to call time on their own life. This, I believe will not be the “slippery slope” that some opponents have suggested it might be. It does not mean that all of a sudden many people are going to want to go ahead with it. What it would do though is give people, that are of sound mind, the right and choice to end their suffering. There is so much that could be said about what has happened, but I like to keep these blogs relatively short, in the hope that people will read all of them and come back for more!

Suffice as to say, even though there is very little likelihood of this particular bill becoming law in this parliament, at least it has now passed to the committee stage in the Lords, where it will be scrutinised in much more detail. This can only be a good thing, and will give those both for and against such a law, the chance to really take a closer look at exactly what it is Lord Falconer is proposing. I will be following this discussion with keen interest, and will no doubt return to the subject for future blogs.

If you haven’t already, then I would ask that those of you who are interested, take the time to read the bill itself:

http://services.parliament.uk/bills/2013-14/assisteddying.html

It’s a very emotive topic, with understandable arguments on both sides. However, it all boils down to personal choice. The right of someone that is of sound mind to choose the time of their own passing.