MPs have rejected plans in England and Wales to offer a “dignified and peaceful death” to those with terminal illnesses and less than six months to live.
In a free vote, MPs voted overwhelmingly against the proposal, with 118 in favour and 330 against, after an impassioned debate.
Under the proposals, those with less than six months left to live could be prescribed a lethal dose of drugs, which they would have to take themselves. They would only be offered these drugs after approval from two doctors and the High Court, which would approve applications on a case-by-case basis.
Care Not Killing, the UK’s leading anti-euthanasia campaign group, welcomed the decision. Dr Peter Saunders, Campaign Director of Care Not Killing, said:
“We welcome this unequivocal rejection of this dangerous piece of legislation by the House of Commons.
“Parliamentarians have rightly rejected the legalisation on assisted suicide and euthanasia five times since 2006 out of concern for public safety – in the House of Lords (2006 and 2009) in Scotland (2010 and 2015) and now in the House of Commons.
“They have done this because they have witnessed mission creep in the tiny number of places that have changed the law to allow assisted suicide and euthanasia – countries like Belgium, the Netherlands and the American state of Oregon.”
However, others disagreed with the decision and said that it shoes MPs to be “out of touch” with reality. Sarah Wootton, Chief Executive of Dignity in Dying, commented/a>:
“It’s great that we’ve had the first substantive debate in the House of Commons for almost twenty years. This is an important first step in changing the law for terminally ill people. However the vote only goes to show just how ridiculously out of touch MPs are with the British public on the issue. With the overwhelming majority of the public supporting the Bill it is an outrage that MPs have decided to retain the current law which the former Director of Public Prosecutions, the House of Lords, and the public all believe is leading to suffering and injustice for dying people.
“By rejecting the Bill Parliament has in effect decided to condone terminally ill people ending their own lives but refused to provide them the adequate protection they need. Suffering will continue as long as MPs turn a blind eye to dying people’s wishes. Dying people deserve better.
“Those who can afford to will go to Dignitas. One Briton is already travelling abroad to die every fortnight while over 300 terminally ill people are taking their own lives at home, usually alone and in dangerous ways, every year. The Assisted Dying Bill would have put rigorous safeguards in place, not only to give dying people choice, but also to better protect them. Strong and robust safeguards before someone ends their life would be far safer than the current ‘after the event’ inquiry.
“The law as it stands clearly does not command the support of the public. Parliament has failed to act and if it fails to recognise its responsibility over the next five years then the Courts have no choice but to act instead, to end this suffering and injustice.”