Tag Archives: assisted dying

Norman Lamb MP writes…Why I support assisted dying

You will have probably heard by now that the Assisted Dying Bill was defeated in Parliament this afternoon by a margin of about three to one.

The scale of victory for opponents of the Bill was almost exactly the same as when it was last debated in 1997. This is remarkable, given the degree of public support for reform – over 80% according to a poll earlier this year. I respect the deeply held convictions of those who oppose assisted dying but I can’t help but reflect on how out of step with public mood Parliament appears to be on this issue of such profound importance.  And before anyone reacts – yes I understand we have a representative democracy and I know that it cuts both ways. I am deeply relieved that Parliament has always rejected hanging!

I used to oppose assisted dying. I shared the concerns of many people about the risk this could pose to vulnerable individuals under pressure from greedy relatives. However, in recent years my views have been challenged.

During my time as a Health Minister and my years as a Member of Parliament I have heard the testimonies of people with terminal conditions, often in great pain, who wanted the right to end their suffering with dignity and in a way of their choosing. Listening to these stories has forced me to confront the principles at stake.

Ultimately, the question surely is: should it be the individual or the state who decides? For me, as a Liberal, there can be no doubt. I know that I would want the right to decide for myself, so I cannot deny it to others.

As Care Minister, I was completely focused on improving end of life care, an area of medicine too often neglected in the past. I had to address really serious concerns about how the Liverpool Care Pathway had been applied in many hospitals as a one size fits all protocol.

What has emerged from the review I initiated is a new approach which focuses completely on the priorities and needs of the individual patient. There is a strong consensus now that, at the end of life, the patient’s wishes come first – on resuscitation, on where to die and so on. How odd then, that when it comes to the most profound question of all, we deny the person the right to decide.

The current legal situation is not just a messy compromise; it is cruel and wrong. We put families into the most invidious position. If they act out of compassion in helping a loved one to die, they still face having their home declared a ‘crime scene’ and then face an investigation which could go on for months, interfering horribly with the process of grieving. The DPP guidelines talk about ‘the suspect’. Surely we can’t put people through this.

Some people, of course, travel to another country to end their life, if they can afford it. But even that is, surely, grotesque – expecting a dying person to travel to an alien clinic in another country, when they could be at home with loved ones. For those who can’t afford to travel, they face the dreadful choice of soldiering on, perhaps in great pain and loss of dignity – or commit suicide. A Labour MP today wrote of how his own father ended his life in this way. Surely, again, this is intolerable.

Another concern people often raise is that giving people the right to die would somehow distract from, or conflict with, steps to ensure excellent palliative care. But good palliative care and assisted dying are in no way incompatible. It is up to Parliament to ensure that we invest enough in palliative care. In Oregon, where assisted dying has been lawful for many years, there is better access to specialist palliative care than in most other states.

John Stuart Mill wrote: “The only part of the conduct of anyone, for which he is amenable to society, is that which concerns others. In the part which merely concerns himself, his independence is, of right, absolute. Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign.”

I will keep campaigning for that sovereignty to be respected at the end of life, despite the defeat in Parliament today.

Posted in News and Op-eds | 24 Comments

Norman Lamb MP writes: I want us to lead the way in Parliament to allow assisted dying

For many years, I opposed attempts to legalise assisted dying.  I had concerns, shared by many, that the risk to the most vulnerable individuals outweighed the benefits.  Equally, I respect those with deeply held religious concerns.
But my views have been challenged in recent years. As an MP and in my role in the last Parliament as a health minister, I have spoken to many terminally ill patients, and the families of those who suffered slow deaths in great pain.
So many of them were convinced, when someone is suffering intolerably, and when they are reaching the end of their life, they should be allowed to end their suffering with dignity, and with the support of those closest to them.
These testimonies have forced me to think again. Would I want the right to decide for myself, when faced with terminal illness, when I wished to die? And would I want it for loved ones? The answer is unequivocally, yes. 
Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 31 Comments

Lord Avebury’s personal story – why he wants the option of assisted dying

eric aveburyLiberal Democrat peer Eric Avebury, a great friend of this site, has been talking to the Dignity in Dying website about why he feels so strongly that assisted dying should be an option, to help him avoid a “very terrible” death from his blood cancer.

I am committed to campaigning for terminally ill, mentally competent people to have the right to an assisted death. I have an incurable disease, a form of blood cancer called myelofibrosis, where the inside of the bone marrow turns to fibre and it no longer produces blood, so you suffocate. I have been told that it can be very terrible in the last stages.

It is a debate that the public have been engaging in for many years and finally Parliament has decided to catch up. I have had my own conversations with my family. My wife comes to all my consultations and we have discussed assisted dying. She knows that the ideal would be to have a peaceful death at home and for palliative care to deal with any serious pain, but if it doesn’t she would respect my decision to have an assisted death – assuming the Bill is passed by then. I am not keen on the idea of travelling to Switzerland and we haven’t discussed that option. My four children know my views and don’t object to them either.

I obviously have a personal stake in the Bill and the future of the assisted dying campaign. Currently I am not in the latter stages of my illness and I am very hopeful that this year will not be my last.

I am confident that, when this time comes for me, assisted dying for terminally ill people will be a legal right in the UK, and I will be able to plan the death that I want.

Posted in News | Also tagged and | 4 Comments

Opinion: Assisted dying

LilyThe Assisted Dying Bill returns to the House of Lords this week following high-profile interventions by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby , and his predecessor-but-one, George Carey.

While the bill may receive a second reading in the Lords, it stands little chance of progressing in the Commons. This is because key MPs, including David Cameron and Nick Clegg, are firmly against it. I respect the sincerity of Cameron and Clegg’s concerns, but I also believe their stated views show that they have not approached the issue in the right way. It is vital that any debate in the commons is open and honest, and not skewed by prejudice or emotion. MPs could do worse than begin the debate by considering the views of the two archbishops, which actually advanced the quality of the public discourse quite significantly.

photo by:
Posted in Op-eds | 17 Comments

Opinion: Choose Life

The spring conference at Brighton 2012 proposed a motion (F20) on Medically Assisted Dying which was carried and I was the only one who spoke against it. Now Lord Falconer has introduced a Bill on Assisted Dying for which I feel compelled to make a case against. On the wall at Lib Dem head office it say “The Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community, and in which no one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity“.The motion and …

Posted in Op-eds | 23 Comments

3 facts about assisted dying (or ‘it’s not all about Switzerland you know’)

The debate around legalising assisted dying seems increasingly to centre on the case of suicide tourism; whether people should ‘have to’ travel to clinics in Switzerland where they can legally end their lives. Whilst this is undoubtedly an important trend, it is merely a side show to the real issue and masks three important facts about assisted dying.

1 – Very few people travel to Switzerland to end their lives.

In the last 10 years less than 200 people have travelled to Switzerland to end their lives. That’s quite a lot. However, it’s far fewer than the estimated 500

Posted in Op-eds | 32 Comments

Eric Avebury writes: Assisted dying

Over the last 20 years I have had a few close shaves that made me think about death, including a quadruple bypass, a burst colon, lung cancer and an aortic aneurysm. None of these were conditions that involved more than temporary pain and a fairly low risk, though as Hamlet’s mother says:

‘All that lives must die
Passing through nature to eternity.’

But then in August 2011 I was diagnosed with myelofibrosis, an incurable form of blood cancer, that ultimately leads to various unpleasant and painful symptoms, needing frequent blood transfusions to prevent the arteries seizing up with fibres. Would I then want …

Posted in Op-eds | 52 Comments

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    This law changes little. The reality is a profligate Chancellor would soon find him or herself facing a massive run on sterling.
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    Stimpson "I think there is still confusion within the party if we support economic liberalism, or something closer to Corbynite social democracy" Mr. Corbyn is...
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    Here's a fiscal mandate we cd get behind: A target for annual gross public investment of not less than [5] per cent of GDP by...
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    @David Allen I think you are, if nothing's done, talking about a generation. Those who are politically engaged (i.e. who vote) have very long memories....
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    Dav, geography has always been Ireland's curse, really. Of course, England could impose such economic 'suicide' on Ireland. But that would be a kind of...
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    Helen has a point. Even taking into account our limited finances, our campaign seemed diffuse and reactive. An election campaign needs to push two or...
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