This Friday 18th July the House of Lords will give a Second Reading to the Assisted Dying Bill. I have generally been a supporter of individual liberty when it comes to matters about a person’s health and well-being and in the past thought it would be better to have more options at the end of life but although I’ve supported the principle of assisted dying I hadn’t considered it in much depth until I wrote a novel on the topic – The Kindest Thing. Researching this, where a woman helps her terminally ill husband end his life and is then tried for murder, convinced me that we need a law to protect and safeguard people who are dying and their loved ones who wish to support them in choosing when to die. And that having safe, medical means to end our lives would be a far more humane system than the current situation where people are forced either to travel abroad earlier than they might wish or risk a fraught DIY attempt at ending life. Preparing a paper about the issue for St Hilda’s Mystery and Crime conference 2011, I was struck by the success of the assisted dying bill in Oregon USA and how the experience there has allayed many of the fears people have about a change to the law, resulting in a much more humane situation than is the case here.
Lord Falconer’s Assisted Dying Bill would clarify the situation here and (as is the case in Oregon) it would be robustly designed to prevent abuse or coercion of vulnerable people and would enable people who are close to death a chance to die with dignity and care.
As a patron of Dignity in Dying, I’d invite you to visit the website and lend your support to the campaign. If I may quote Sir Terry Pratchett from his Richard Dimbleby lecture on the topic, ‘Let us consider me as a test case…. if I knew that I could die at any time I wanted, then suddenly every day would be as precious as a million pounds. If I knew that I could die, I would live. My life, my death, my choice.’
UPDATE: The Bill passed the Second Reading Stage and will now progress to Committee Stage. For details of the route to legislation see here.