Thursday, 15 March 2012

Assisted Suicide Debate

Parliament sees a serious issue of conscience debate coming up on Tuesday 27th March. I had wanted to be at the Fuel Poverty day that we and the OFT have organised in Northumberland but have decided to stay in Westminster to debate the issue of assisted suicide. I have received significant correspondence on the issue and have already spoken briefly on it before in the House last month.

The motion is that
"This House welcomes the Director of Public Prosecutions Policy to prosecutors in respect of cases of encouraging or assisting suicide, as published in February 2010,"
with a secondary debate on
"whether the government should be invited to put the guidance on a statutory basis."

There is no whip or government advice, as it is matter of conscience, and I am taking soundings in the constituency before speaking, but I am, of course, aware of the strong feelings on both sides of the argument. I am a huge supporter of palliative care and have been supporting and campaigning at length on this issue recently. I am also mindful of the excellent work done by the north east NHS, which has launched its Deciding Right initiative on end of life care [I stress the NHS intitaitve relates to advice, and care and not anything to do with assisted suicide].
Many constituents and MPs will argue very strongly on religious and other grounds that assisted suicide should not be allowed, and there are significant and real issues on both the probity and the practicalities of the state authorising such assistance. However, I am very mindful of the experience I, and other members of my family, have been through and will certainly be speaking in the debate: I certainly welcome the work of the DPP, Keir Starmer, and will support the precise wording of the motion. It is clearly a step in the right direction to have clarity. The vexed issue of what further steps the state should authorise, and what rights a person has to be assisted in ending their own life is something that will create a signficant debate. For my part I believe a person's life belongs to that person, and his or her loved ones, and I will need a lot persuading that the state knows best, and that there is no way around the clear problems that do exist. I am aware that many constituents have written in but I would ask for their patience as I wish to reply in detail.