Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : September 14th 2015 Contents A26
body & soul
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Monday, September 14, 2015
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LEADING THE WAY IN PRIVATE
TERTIARY EDUCATION SINCE 1984
More and more
on politicians to
allow for the
right to die in
MPs have rejected plans for a right to die in Eng-
land and Wales in their first vote on the issue in
almost 20 years.
In a free vote in the Commons, 118 MPs were in
favour and 330 against plans to allow some terminally
ill adults to end their lives with medical supervision.
In a passionate debate, some argued the plans
allowed a "dignified and peaceful death" while others
said they were "totally unacceptable".
Pro-assisted dying campaigners said the result
showed MPs were out of touch.
Under the proposals, people with fewer than six
months to live could have been prescribed a lethal
dose of drugs, which they had to be able to take them-
selves. Two doctors and a High Court judge would
have needed to approve each case.
Dr Peter Saunders, campaign director of Care Not
Killing, welcomed the rejection of the legislation,
saying the current law existed to protect those who
were sick, elderly, depressed or disabled.
He said: "It protects those who have no voice against
exploitation and coercion, it acts as a powerful deterrent
to would-be abusers and does not need changing."
But Sarah Wootton, the chief executive of Dignity
in Dying, said it was an "outrage" that MPs had gone
against the views of the majority of the public who
supported the bill.
She added that "dying people deserve better."
The latest proposals were brought before the Com-
mons by Rob Marris, the Labour MP for Wolver-
hampton South West.
Opening the debate, Marris said the current law
did not meet the needs of the terminally ill, families
or the medical profession.
He said there were too many "amateur suicides,
and people going to Dignitas" and it was time for
Parliament to debate the issue because "social attitudes
Marris added: "This bill would provide more pro-
tection for the living and more choice for the dying."
Marris said he did not know what choice he would
make if he was terminally ill, but said it would be
comforting to know that the choice was available.
Fiona Bruce, the MP for Congleton, said the bill
was so completely lacking safeguards for the vulnerable
that "if this weren t so serious it would be laughable."
Her impassioned speech concluded: "We are here
to protect the most vulnerable in our society, not to
legislate to kill them. This bill is not merely flawed,
it is legally and ethically totally unacceptable."
Euthanasia, which is considered as manslaughter
or murder, is illegal under English law.
The Suicide Act 1961 makes it an offence to encour-
age or assist a suicide or a suicide attempt in England
and Wales. Anyone doing so could face up to 14 years
The law is almost identical in Northern Ireland.
There is no specific law on assisted suicide in Scot-
land, creating some uncertainty, although in theory
someone could be prosecuted under homicide leg-
Conservative MP Caroline Spelman added that "the
right to die can so easily become the duty to die" and
she said the law already provided protection for the
elderly and disabled.
She was one of many MPs to argue that it was dif-
ficult to determine whether someone had six months
or under to live.
She also warned: "(The bill) changes the relationship
between the doctor and their patient, it would not
just legitimise suicide, but promote the participation
of others in it."
In a lengthy speech, Labour MP Sir Keir Starmer
told MPs about prosecution guidelines he developed
in his role as director of public prosecutions, when
he had to deal with a number of "right to die" cases,
including those of Debbie Purdy and Tony Nicklin-
But he warned that his guidelines had shortcomings
without a change in the law.
He said: "We have arrived at a position where com-
passionate amateur assistance from nearest and dearest
is accepted, but professional medical assistance is not
unless you have the means of physical assistance to
get to Dignitas.
"That, to my mind, is an injustice we have trapped
within our current arrangements."
An emotional Dr Philippa Whitford, the SNP s
health spokeswoman and a breast cancer surgeon,
argued that with good palliative care, the "journey
can lead to a beautiful death."
"We should support letting people live every day
of their lives till the end," she said, and she urged MPs
to vote for "life and dignity, not death." (BBC)
UK rejects 'right-to-die' legislation
YOUR DAILY HEALTH
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