CARE believes that every life has value from its beginning at conception to its natural end; however, this position has been called into question over the course of the previous Parliament.
As the culture of individualism takes deeper root in our society with its stress on autonomy and choice in all aspects of life, including death, campaigners for assisted suicide have become more vocal.
Numerous polls have been conducted suggesting public support, though crucially, when people are made aware of the practical implications of changing the law – especially the pressure it will place on vulnerable people who know they are a burden to end their lives – support falls significantly amongst the general public.
All Royal medical colleges as well as the vast majority of leading representative bodies for the elderly and disabled oppose changing the law.
Assisted suicide has been debated on several occasions in both the House of Commons and House of Lords recently. In 2012, Conservative MP Richard Ottaway secured a debate in the House of Commons which did not result in a vote. Labour Peer, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, introduced his England and Wales ‘Assisted Dying Bill’ which made some progress in the House of Lords before falling prior to the 2015 General Election.
Most significantly in the 2015-2017 Parliament, in September 2015 the Assisted Dying (No.2) Bill introduced by Labour MP Rob Marris was heavily defeated by 330 votes to 118. During debates on the Bill, time and again MPs spoke of the risk posed to vulnerable people if the law were changed to legalise assisted suicide. The message from elected representatives could not have been clearer: assisted suicide is dangerous, unnecessary and unwanted.
Despite the overwhelming defeat of the Marris Bill, there have been continued (thus far unsuccessful) attempts to challenge the law in the courts, and we should expect further challenges in Parliament in the new session.
Mindful of this, it will be particularly important to ask candidates about assisted suicide at this election. As this issue is the subject of a free vote you will not be able to find out how your candidate will vote by consultation their party manifesto – the only way is to ask them directly.
Although assisted suicide is devolved in Scotland (which has faced its own challenges to the law on assisted suicide) and Northern Ireland, all Scottish and Northern Irish MPs can vote on assisted suicide debates in Westminster as well, so please be sure to ask candidates for Scottish and Northern Irish seats for their views too.
Questions for Candidates
1. Would you oppose any attempt to change the law to legalise assisted suicide during the course of the next parliament?
2. What action would you take to ensure better provision of effective palliative care across the UK?