Constituents have sent me a whole stack of cards asking me to back legislation to legalise assisted suicide.
The Commons last debated this in the autumn of 2015 and the proposal was defeated by 330 votes to 118, which I thought was sufficiently overwhelming to settle the issue for quite a few years, but apparently not.
Attempting suicide used to be unlawful until 1961, since when we have the right to end our own lives if we choose. Someone else doing it for you however, remains a serious criminal offence.
I entirely understand the dreadful dilemma of those with terminal degenerative conditions who want to continue to live whilst there is some quality to life, but want the reassurance that, when the pain and indignity becomes unbearable, someone will be able to able to end it for them, if by then they have lost the capability of doing it for themselves.
My concern however, is that if a convenient and accepted procedure and process becomes established for ending life, it will be a very short step from ‘choice’ to ‘expectation’. I fear that as elderly and vulnerable people become a greater burden to the healthcare system, their own finances, and their families, there will ever so subtle, and not so subtle expressions of expectation that they will do ‘the decent thing’.
Clearly, going to the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland to end one’s life is an expense and inconvenience that anyone, especially the terminally ill, would want to avoid. Given the awesome finality of what they are planning however, is it really too much to expect of them?