Thank you for having contacted me about the debate and vote concerning the Assisted Dying Bill, which as you know took place on Friday 11th September.
I appreciate your concern on this very sensitive issue. Coping with a terminal illness is distressing and difficult for both the patient and their families. These cases are truly moving and evoke the highest degree of compassion and emotion.
Before attending the debate, I took a great deal of time talking, listening to and reading correspondence from those who hold views on both sides of the argument. Including- but not exclusively- health professionals, patients, the clergy and those whose experiences helped inform my decision making. However, this was a free vote and a matter of conscience.
I firmly believe that everyone who is terminally ill should receive the highest quality palliative and end of life care. Unfortunately, this is not always the case and I feel we should be channelling our efforts to make this happen. Delivering a better quality of care is often cited as a reason to support Assisted Dying, however I worry about the cogency of this argument. With that in mind, I welcome the Department of Health's End of Life Care Strategy which is intended to improve access to good quality palliative care and encourage the Government further to develop specialist care and hospice provision.
It is acknowledged that the current law has imperfections. The debate on Assisted Dying was conducted with respect and courtesy and exemplified Parliament working at its best. The Bill as it stood covered those with a terminal illness who, it was believed, had less than six months to live. As repeatedly stated during the debate, determining how long a patient has left to live is an inexact science and places great pressure on medical professionals. Also, it did not cover those with a disability or mental illness. There were extremely compelling arguments put forward from colleagues who were doctors, on why we should proceed with care, rather than legislate for assisted suicide.
I appreciated the views of those who supported the Bill, which included individual choice and the right to choose the time of one's own death. However, I felt voting against the Bill better protected those who are vulnerable or might have felt under pressure should this Bill have progressed. To that end I voted against it.