Monday, 16 December 2013

Should we change the law on the right to die? 9 Judges decide this week

My support for a change in the law is well known. Exceptionally the Supreme Court have convened a 9 Judge court [it usually sits with only 5] to decide 3 separate appeals in this most complex of legal and moral arguments. Noone is saying this is an easy issue, nor am I down playing the incredible work the local hospices do - whether they are Tynedale Hospice at Home, or Charlotte Straker in Corbridge. The three cases being reviewed are well summarised by the BBC here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-25363947
For me this argument comes down to 2 simple issues:
- why is this choice to take one's own life, in very specified and controlled circumstances, through the Digitas clinic in Switzerland, something that is available solely to the few? It is only possible to go down this route if you have money. That is the harsh reality. The normal person could not avail themselves of this option unless they had significant wealth. Noone who has gone down the Digitas route has been prosecuted by the DPP and rightly so.
- secondly, to whom does your life belong? I am a Christian, but within the confines of my Christian faith I still believe that a person should have the right to end their life in certain circumstances.
However, my strong suspicion is that the cases will be lost before the Supreme Court, not because the Judges are not sympathetic but because the law can only be changed with parliament's consent, and there is a reluctance for any of the political parties to address this issue, notwithstanding strong support amongst the backbenchers, including myself.

My views, and the opinions of the inspirational Geraldine McClelland, and her friends who are my constituents, are set out here: http://www.thejournal.co.uk/news/north-east-news/hexham-mp-guy-opperman-backs-4413760

And the report of the debate on this issue in 2012 is here: http://www.thejournal.co.uk/news/north-east-news/mp-guy-opperman-reveals-days-4413872

My speech in full during the very emotional and powerful day in the Commons last year is set out here: http://www.theyworkforyou.com/debates/?id=2012-03-27a.1373.0&s=%28assisted+suicide%29+speaker%3A24962#g1433.0
The entire transcript features some of the best speeches I have ever heard in the Commons, notably by my labour friend and colleague Paul Blomfield, the MP for Sheffield Central. It is worth a read - the Commons at its best where genuine debate takes place.

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