Euthanasia / Assisted Suicide - Archive

Big Debate: Was Parliament Correct to Reject the Assisted Dying Bill?

On Friday, September 11, MPs decisively rejected the Assisted Dying Bill by 330 votes to 118.

The bill would have allowed people with six months to live the option of being prescribed a lethal dose of drugs, providing two doctors and a High Court judge approved.

But as Lyn Brown MP showed during a passionate speech in Parliament, the prospect of euthanasia is deemed too dangerous by many lawmakers, despite campaigners’ lobbying.

So we asked: Was Parliament right to reject the Assisted Dying Bill?

Stephen Timms, MP for East Ham

On 11 September, Parliament debated Rob Marris’s Assisted Dying Bill. It would have legalised terminally ill people taking their own lives if expected to die within six months.

Many MPs listened exceptionally carefully to the arguments – and didn’t decide until the last minute how to vote.

I opposed the Bill. Rob Marris was well intentioned in tabling it, but I am worried about a major problem with any legislation along these lines.

However strong the safeguards, there would be people who ended their lives because they didn’t want to be a burden to others, not because they wanted to die.

The law should not put anyone in that position.

Lyn Brown made one of the best speeches. She explained that her mother had been struck by cancer, and died within a few months.

If state-assisted suicide had been available, she “would have tormented herself during her last months with the question of when she would ask for that button to be pressed… She would have worried about the stresses that my sister and I would have endured, she would have worried about the weight of her care being shouldered by the nurses and the doctors, and she would have been anxious that folk would think that she was consuming too many resources, selfishly staying alive, costing money when she could and should just die.”

Lyn is surely right. We should not force sick, elderly people to face that torment. There would also be cases of people pressed to end their lives so that their relatives could enjoy an inheritance from them – a truly appalling prospect.

The Bill was defeated by 330 votes to 118, an even heavier defeat than when this idea was last debated, almost 20 years ago. It is unlikely to be considered again in this Parliament.

[25 Sept 2015, ]