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Parliament debates assisted suicide Bill – as it happened

Baroness Masham of Ilton speaks against assisted suicide.

17:00 Thank you for following our live blog. At this stage, following Baroness Howe’s speech, there were 45 speeches against the Bill and 45 speeches in favour of the Bill. Continue watching here.

16:56 Baroness Howe of Idlicote says that she has received lots of letters and they are all opposed to assisted suicide. She argues that the title ‘Assisted Dying’ Bill is worryingly vague and that the safeguards in Lord Falconer’s Bill are too flimsy.

16:50 Lord Finkelstein supports the Bill and argues that ‘fear of being a burden’ is not a reason to oppose legalising assisted suicide. The reasons for opting for assisted suicide should not matter says Lord Finkelstein;it is up to the individual why they choose assisted suicide and is no business of the state.

16:40 Our live blogging will stop at 5pm but you can follow the debate live here.

16:39 Baroness Kennedy of the Shaws opposes the Bill. She argues the Bill carries us across an important line and will change the moral landscape. “It is a fundamental principle of law that we should safeguard life and it’s too important to abandon it.” She asks how many people in our communities have real choice and says that sociey is becoming a “harder place” and is full of people who have very few choices.

16:30 Baroness Young of Old Scone, who supports the Bill, argues that health care professionals are too scared to discuss patient’s options for fear of prosecution.

16:26 Lord Singh, who is Sikh, says there is an “unhealthy obession” with the indiivudal driving a change in the law, which he opposes. He argues that the Bill moves us away from enhancing care and might encourage greedy relatives to pressure vulnerable family members.

16:20 Viscount Eccles is opposed to the Bill and argues that while there is still much to do in palliative care, licensing assisted suicide is not the solution.

16:13 Lord Harrison supports the Bill and argues that the slippery slope argument against legalising assisted suicide is the “most slippery of all.”

16:07 Baroness Masham of Ilton, who is paraplegic, tells the House that the majority of disabled people oppose assisted suicide. She argues that doctors should not become “killing machines” and reminds the Lords about the “monster” Harold Shiplam who killed his patients.

16:06 Lord Howarth argues that civilisation is always fragile and that he is horrified that we might have a society where it becomes routine to end the lives of the elderly, sick and disabled.

15:58 Lord Condon, who opposes the Bill, tells the House: “I just cannot overcome the reservations I feel.” He says that there is an absence of detail in the Bill about safeguards and that the current law works. He also predicts that many elderly and disabled people will become “diminsihed and downgraded” if this Bill becomes law. He calls for a Royal Commission to look into the case for legalising assisted suicide instead.

15:55 Lord Graham of Edmonto, supports the Bill, he tells the House that his cab driver this morning asked him to support the Bill.

15:53 You can access the full text of Baroness Campbell’s speech here.

15:44 John Bingham tweets:

15:42 Lord Gordon of Strathblane, opposes the Bill and says it is not about assisted dying and assisted suicide. We currently treat suicide as something not be assisted and something to be prevented, argues Lord Gordon and says that no one in the chamber would encourage a terminally-ill person to jump of a bridge but try and persuade them to think again.

15:55 Baroness Neuberger opposes the Bill because she doesn’t think doctors should be involved with assisting suicide based on the findings of her inquiry into the Liverpool Care Pathway. She also expresses concerns about the requirement of a 6 month prognosis because her own mother was given a prognosis of a few weeks and went on to live for another 5 years.

15:25 Lord Browne of Belmont, who opposes the Bill, says that since the inception of Oregon’s Death wtih Dignity Act, there have been 22 serious complications with assisted death and 6 people have regained consciousness following ingestion of the lethal dosage. He also referred to a ComRes poll which shows that initially 73% of people support a change in the law and 12% oppose a change but when they are made aware of the public safety risks, only 43% support assisted suicide and 43% oppose it.

15:00 Viscount Colville, who opposes the Bill, says that he has received a letter from a psychiatrist who warns him about the difificulties of assessing mental capacity and the risk of assisting someone to die because they are clinically depressed.

15:00 Baroness Morris of Bolton recalls that she suffered a riding accident in her youth. She was in intense pain, depressed and didn’t know if she would walk again. She stockpiled pills in case she decided to commit suicide. She says a nurse befriended her, gave her hope and helped her to recover. She says that if the Bill had been passed then she might have sought help to die, rather than gone on to live a fulfilling life.

14:57 The former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey speaks in favour of the Bill. He says his critics say his U-turn on the issue is light on theology. He says his theology is one of accompanying the dying in their darkest moment and treating them as the he would wish to be treated. This is theology of the very best kind, he says.

14:41 Baroness Butler-Sloss, who opposes the Bill, tells the House that the safeguards included are “utterly inadequate.”

14:39 Our Associate Editor, Madeleine Teahan tweets:

14:10 Lord Winston speaks about his mother during her final days and the poor standard of care she received. He opposes Lord Falconer’s Bill and warns against the impossibility of regulating attitudes among the medical profession which will worsen under legalised assisted suicide.

14:06 Fr James Bradley tweets:

14:02 Lord Cavendish of Furness, who opposes the Bill, tells the House that he has received 30 letters and only two supported the Bill.

14:01 Diane Abbot MP tweets:

13:56 Have you read Francis Phillips on “The blinded photographer, assisted suicide and ‘the sin against life?'”

13:50 The Bishop of Bristol tells the House how nearly 60% of people who opted for assisted suicide in Washington State last year said that they did not want to be a burden.

13:44 Baroness Warnock, long time supporter of assisted suicide, who once said dementia sufferers were “wasting people’s lives,” argues in favour of the Bill.

13:38 Baroness Cumberlege, former health minister and Catholic, who opposes the Bill, says that the Bill is “pie in the sky” when we consider the reality of the NHS. She asks: “Would we prefer to die in the arms of one who cares for us or be administered with venom by a licensed killer?”

13:35 Peter D Williams tweets:

13:22 Baroness Grey-Thompson tells the House that she is worried a change in the law will be extended to disabled people.

13:16 Baroness Wheatcroft, who supports assisted suicide, tells the House that when her mother was dying of Leukaemia if she’d been offered a loaded gun she would have fired it.

13:07 Baroness Symons tells the House how her husband was diagnosed with terminal cancer and was given a few months to live, 22 years ago and that he wanted to end his life. He is still alive today and Baroness Symons tells the House that she is so glad that her son still has a father and that she still has a husband.

12:51 Former DPP, Lord MacDonald of River Glaven opposes a change in the law and emphasises that the current law allows for discretion. He says it would be foolish to assume that everyone who assists a suicide acts with pure motives. The former DPP adds that it is right that the “deliberate infliction of death” should always be investigated even if it doesn’t result in prosecution.

12:22 Baroness Campbell of Surbiton says that this Bill will reverse the culture of care where she will be helped to die rather than to live. She argues that pain and suffering should always be treated and she has learned through experience that there is no situation which cannot be improved. She says the Bill is motivated by fear and pity.

Baroness Campbell speaks against the Bill Baroness Campbell speaks against the Bill

12:21 Listen to Baroness Campbell of Surbiton explain why the ‘Assisted Dying’ Bill scares her.

12:13 Baroness Berridge of the Vale of Catmose tweets:

12:10 Lord Harries of Pentregarth, who opposes the Bill, asks why we have less compassion for someone diagnosed with a lifetime of suffering ahead of them than someone who is expected to die within a few months.

12:06 Here is the full text of the Archbishop of York’s speech:

My Lords, let me state at the outset that the ‘official’ Church of England position was made very clear on 9th July 2005, when the General Synod voted on a motion referring to the joint submission of the C of E House of Bishops and the Roman Catholic Bishops’ Conference to your Lordships’ House Select Committee. The motion argued strongly against making assisted suicide or euthanasia lawful. The vote was carried by 297 votes to 1. This position was reaffirmed in a General Synod motion in 2012. “My Lords, this present Bill is not about relieving pain or suffering. It makes that quite clear in its definition of a terminally ill patient to include those whose progressive illness can be relieved but not reversed. This bill is about asserting a philosophy, which not only Christians, but also other thoughtful people of goodwill who have had experience in care for the dying must find incredible: that is, the ancient Stoic philosophy that ending one’s life in circumstances of distress is an assertion of human freedom. That it cannot be. Human freedom is won only by becoming reconciled with the need to die, and by affirming the human relations we have with other people. Accepting the approach of death is not the attitude of passivity that we may think it to be. Dying well is the positive achievement of a task that belongs with our humanity. It is unlike all other tasks given to us in life, but it expresses the value we set on life as no other approach to death can do. “We need time, human presence and sympathy in coming to terms with a terminal prognosis. To put the opportunity to end one’s life before a patient facing that task would be to invite him or her to act under their influence rather than dealing with them. “It is possible to think abstractly that one’s early death would be welcome to one’s nearest family and would spare them trouble. But in fact the best service one could do for them would be to accept their care, and to show appreciation of them at the end of one’s life. “When it was discovered that my mother, Ruth, had aggressive throat cancer she was expected to live only a matter of weeks, but through the skill and care of the hospital and Trinity Hospice, she was able to live for eighteen months. During this time our children, who had been born in England, were able to get to know and love their grandmother, and she was able to delight in them. This was a gift. “The Bishop of Worcester, John Inge, recently wrote about his wife Denise who died of a sarcoma on Easter Day. He writes:‘How easy it would have been to succumb to despair when the diagnosis was given. It looked as though she had only days – or weeks at most – to live. As the dreadful effects of chemo took their toll and I became more and more distressed at seeing her in such pain and discomfort, how tempting it would have been for me, if assisted dying had been legal, to have suggested that it would be ‘for the best’ for her to end it all there and then. Many argue that this would have been compassionate and caring thing to do.’ “But Denise survived several more months, and during the times when I visited and prayed with her and Bishop John, I saw her emerge from the initial darkness to enjoy some precious time with friends and family. “Shortly before she died, she wrote: ‘Contemplating mortality is not about being prepared to die, it is about being prepared to live. And that is what I am doing now, more freely and more fully than I have since childhood. The cancer has not made life more precious – that would make it seem like something fragile to lock away in the cupboard. No, it has made it more delicious.’ “My Lords, the Assisted Dying Bill could deprive some terminally ill individuals and their families of this very important time of shared love and wonder. I urge you to resist it. This is far too complex and sensitive an issue to be rushed through Parliament and decided on the basis of competing personal stories. I therefore suggest that a Royal Commission be set up to provide a way of exploring these complex issues in greater depth.”

11:53 Lord Brennan, former head of the Catholic Union, says that the Bill favours the few invulnerable against the majority vulnerable. He appeals to the House to be realistic about the implications of the Bill, whch dismantles the Hippocratic Oath. He says that legislating for hard cases nearly always produces bad law.

11:48 Baroness O’Cathain urges the House to remember the vulnerable when debating the Bill, which she opposes. She argues that many letters she receives in favour of assisted suicide make her think about addressing the depression of the terminally-ill rather than assisting them in their suicide.

11:43 Madeleine Teahan responds to Guardian columnist, Polly Toynbee’s article in favour of assisted suicide.

11:37 Lord Mawson, a clergyman who deals with the dying and grief, opposes the Bill because he recognises that people can behave irrationally when they are grieving. He argues that we are not islands but our actions affect one another.

11:27 Earl of Glasgow reiterates his long-standing support for legalising assisted suicide. 11:25 Lord Mackenzie opposes the Bill and warns the House to learn the lessons of the Abortion Act and protect the caring role of nurses. 11:21 Paralympian champion, Tanni Grey-Thompson tweets:

11:18 Lord Winston tweets:

11:14 Baroness Finlay of Llandaff, who is a professor in palliative medicine and cares for the dying, warns that prognosis is not an exact science. She argues that the terminally-ill are especially vulnerable to coercion and doctors are often too over-worked to detect subtle coercion. She says that the Bill provides the “medical equivalent of a loaded gun.”

11:12 So far there have been 9 speeches in favour of the Bill and 4 against.

11:09 Lord Avebury is a Buddhist and supports the Bill because of the Buddhist principle of compassion.

11:04 Have you read this piece about a concert pianist whose experience of caring for his terminally-ill mother persuaded him to oppose assisted suicide?

11:03 Lord Joffe, who introduced an assisted suicide Bill in 2006, says that there is no evidence of a slippery slope in Oregon and argues that mentally competent patients are already allowed to refuse life-saving treatment.

10:59 Lord Tebbit tells the House that the Bill would provide a route to great financial savings and pressure the elderly and disabled to do “the decent thing.” He appeals to the House to learn the lessons of the trend of pre-signing forms for abortions on the grounds of sex and says the Bill provides a breeding ground for “vultures.”

10:56 Lord Wigley supports the Bill and emphasises that the Bill is not about disability but terminal-illness and appeals to the Lords “not to kill off this Bill today.”

10:52 Baroness Greengross argues that the Bill merely enables the terminally-ill, who are not capable of ending their lives, to be allowed to do so.

10:49 Lord Purvis of Tweed, who tried to introduce assisted suicide in Scotland, speaks in support of the Bill. He argues the Bill needs to strike a balance but “I believe now more than ever” for Parliament to act.

10:47 Life charity tweets:

10:42 Baroness Jay of Paddington speaks in favour of the Bill based on “the rejection of human suffering.”

10:38 Archbishop Sentamu tells the House that human freedom is about being reconciled to the need to die and accepting the approach of death. He says that his mother defied all prognosis when she was diagnosed with cancer and this allowed her time to get to know her grandchildren.

10:36 If you would like to find out more about the background to the Assisted Dying Bill, you can read The Explainer here.

10:34 Baroness O’Neill of Bengarve argues that the current Bill does not assist the dying. It doesn’t support the choices of those who are dying or who need pain relief. She argues it does not, for example, support people who want to die at home rather than in hospital.

10:28 Lord Lester of Herne Hill is addressing the House now-he is a long-standing supporter of assisted suicide. Lord Lester argues that at the moment the only option patients have is to starve themselves to deat and are left in a state of uncertainty and anxiety.

10:26 Lord Dubs supports a chnage in the law partly due to the death of someone he knew who had motor-neurone disease.

10:22 Ruth Dudley Edwards tweets:

10:21 Lord Mackay of Clashfern states his deep opposition to the Bill but argues the Bill should be scrutinised and debated. Reminds the House that the DPP said that the current law is working well in practice. “I have seen a number of people die with dignity who did not commit suicide assisted or otherwise.” 10:19 Martha Lane Fox tweets:

10:17 Lord Falconer says that the current law brings despair and a “lonely, cruel death.”

10:14 Lord Falconer tells the house there will be a 14 day ‘cooling-off period’ after an assisted suicide request is granted. The patient would have to administer the medication themselves a healthcare professional must not administer the lethal dosage.

10:12 The Bill is based on Oregon’s experience not Holland or Belgium’s laws. Lord Falconer says that he rejects these laws.

10:10 Lord Falconer tells the House no one wants to see compassionate assisters prosecuted. The current situation allows the rich to go to Dignitas and the majority to rely on amateur assistance. The principle of this Bill is giving choice to the terminally-ill with strong safeguards. The Bill does not legalise voluntary euthanasia but assisted death.

10:01 Melissa Chapin tweets:

10:00 Lord Falconer of Thoroton, who is sponsoring this Private Member’s Bill, is the first to address the chamber.

Welcome to the Catholic Herald’s live blog. We will be bringing you the latest updates on the Second Reading of the Assisted Dying Bill, which is taking place in the House of Lord’s today. You can watch the debate live here.


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