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MPs overwhelmingly reject assisted Dying Bill

On 11th September the latest attempt to liberalise the current law and introduce assisted suicide was comprehensively defeated in the Commons.

The Assisted Dying Bill was soundly rejected by MPs at Second Reading with 330 MPs voting against the legislation and 118 voting in favour.

The legislation, based on Lord Falconer’s previous Bill in the House of Lords came in for strong criticism by MPs across the chamber for a whole variety of reasons, most notably in relation to the so called safeguards.

It was also opposed by the Royal Colleges of Physicians, the British and World Medical Associations, elderly and disabled organisations, and right-to-life advocates.

Positive day

Nola Leach, CEO of CARE (Christian Action, Research and Education) said, “I’m delighted so many MPs voted against this bill, the margin of victory is clear and comprehensive. @

“The legalisation of assisted suicide would have been a fundamental departure from our nation’s compassionate heritage and a dangerous mistake to make.

“Far from being broken, the current law protects both doctors and patients and assisted suicide would only undermine that protection and parliament today has overwhelmingly rejected the arguments calling for a radical change to that law.

"This is a positive day for many vulnerable people who are understandably concerned by the proposed bill which would have enabled servants of the state such as doctors to prescribe lethal medication, contradicting the vital ‘do not harm’ principle which underpins the medical profession. 

CARE, has been a prominent campaigner against assisted suicide and said the outcome was a victory for vulnerable and elderly people across the nation.

No ordinary debate

Writing in the Huffington Post, Fiona Bruce, MP for Congleton and Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Pro-Life Group, headlined her article, “No Ordinary Debate, No Ordinary Day in Parliament, No Ordinary Decision.” @

She commented, “(In the) second reading debate on the Assisted Dying Bill, we saw Parliament at its finest. I have not sat through a debate in which so many Members of Parliament have come determined to listen so intently or been so determined to weigh up seriously all the contributions of fellow Parliamentarians. Nor a debate where so many were clearly not only scouring their consciences, but also plumbing the depths of some of their most heartfelt experiences, both personal and professional.

“And when towards the latter part of the debate, Ben Howlett spoke and said that he had come into the House that day intending to support the Bill, but "listening to speeches made by other Members... has completely changed my mind ", I for one believed he was not alone, and that others, many undecided at the outset, now felt the same.”

Ben Howlett had previously been applauded on the Dignity in Dying website for putting his supportive views on assisted dying on his pre-election website. @

Unequivocal rejection

Dr Peter Saunders, campaign director of the Care Not Killing campaign said the vote was an “unequivocal rejection” of a “dangerous piece of legislation”.

“The current law exists to protect those who are sick, elderly, depressed, or disabled from feeling under pressure to end their lives,” he said.

“It protects those who have no voice against exploitation and coercion, it acts as a powerful deterrent to would-be abusers and does not need changing.”

Palliative care

The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Southwark, the Most Rev Peter Smith, said the bill had posed “grave risks” to the most vulnerable people in society.

“There is much excellent practice in palliative care which we need to celebrate and promote, and I hope now the debate on assisted suicide is behind us, that this will become a focus for political action,” he said.

Speaking for the Church of England, the Bishop of Carlisle the Rt Rev James Newcome, said: “The vote in the House of Commons sends a strong signal that the right approach towards supporting the terminally ill is to offer compassion and support through better palliative care. We believe that all of us need to redouble our efforts on that front.”

Baroness Ilora Finlay, watching throughout from the Gallery, remarked afterwards that it was clear from the debate how in touch MPs are with the people they represent: from references to constituents’ experiences, their direct and personal knowledge of their local hospices and the respect MPs have for those who work in them.

But Sarah Wootton, chief executive of Dignity in Dying (formally the Voluntary Euthanasia Society), said: "The vote only goes to show just how ridiculously out of touch MPs are with the British public on the issue.” @

Useless lives should be ended

And, writing in the Spectator, Matthew Parris gives a glimpse of the worldview underpinning some pro-euthanasia thinking, “Some day soon we’ll all accept that useless lives should be ended.

“As a moral impulse, the idea that one might hasten one’s end because one gained no pleasure from living and one had become a burden on friends, family and the state has been with us since the dawn of man.

“I would have every expectation that, given the extra push, the habit would grow.  At root the reason is Darwinian. Tribes that handicap themselves will not prosper. As medical science advances, the cost of prolonging human life way past human usefulness will impose an ever heavier burden on the community.  This will place a handicap on our tribe. Already the cost of medical provision in Britain eats into our economic competitiveness against less socially generous nations.

“We may not be aware that our moral attitudes are being driven by the Darwinian struggle for survival, but in part they will be. And just as we feel ourselves looking more sympathetically at those who wish to end it all, so we shall be (unconsciously) looking at ourselves in the same way.” @