Sharon Hodgson MP responds to constituents' concerns over Rob Marris' Assisted Dying Bill 2015-16
I have received a large amount of communication from constituents on this matter. As I am sure you will agree, the issue of assisted suicide is a very sensitive one, and something which many people have very strong and differing views on.
Personally, I do empathise with those in favour of assisted suicide, particularly for those with terminal diseases who face a painful and undignified death, and would rather take control of their life.
However, I also strongly believe that we must, as MPs, be extremely careful when considering legislating on this issue, in order to guard against the possibility that any change in the law may lead to abuse such as, for example, a family member coercing an ill or elderly relative to end their life for dubious reasons, perhaps for financial gain.
When someone terminally ill wishes to end their life and needs the help of another individual to do so, and where such cases are clear cut with medical evidence in support and a living will, I don't believe there is any public interest in prosecuting the surviving party.
I therefore welcomed the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) guidance in 2010 on the factors that the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) should take into consideration when deciding whether to bring about a prosecution for assisted suicide.
The DPP issued this guidance following a ruling by the House of Lords that such guidance was necessary. Crucially, the DPP's guidance provides greater clarity for the public and emphasises that while it remains 'murder or manslaughter for a person to commit an act that ends the life of another, even if he or she does so on the basis that he or she is simply complying with the wishes of the other person concerned', the CPS will consider 'each case...on its own facts and its own merits' before pursuing a prosecution.
Given the existence of this guidance, I therefore don't feel that there is any need at present to revisit or water down the existing laws that they seek to clarify and interpret.
My priority in such matters is to continually improve the quality of palliative care and the management of chronic illnesses, so that as many people as possible are able to live out their last days in as much comfort as we are able to provide them, and therefore that as few as possible even contemplate taking their own lives, assisted or otherwise.
If you are a constituent, please don't hesitate to get in touch with any further questions or concerns you may have on this matter.
Final update 11/09/2015:
The Bill was defeated
Ayes 118, Noes 330.
Full Assisted Dying (No. 2) Bill debate in Hansard here