Death with dignity

Natalie and Jenny wrote for Green World

Yesterday outside parliament there was a large, silent, dignified crowd. Among the placards were those reading “choice, compassion, dignity”, some bearing the pictures of loved ones who’d inspired its members to campaign.

They were sending a message to 126 peers debating the second reading of the Assisted Dying Bill, a private member’s bill put forward by crossbench peer Baroness Meacher, who put her case for the Bill on the Today programme yesterday  morning. The Bill would enable adults of sound mind, with six months or less to live, to be provided with life-ending medication with the approval of two doctors and a High Court judge. A public consultation on a similar Bill began in Scotland last month.

We believe that assisted dying is an option that needs to be available to those in absolute pain and misery – with appropriate and robust legal safeguards in place, as other nations have demonstrated is possible – for the 1 per cent of people for whom palliative care is inadequate to ease their suffering.

Providing the right to assisted dying is also the policy of the Green Party – flowing from our respect for personal autonomy, the need for a caring society, and the right of individuals to make decisions for themselves. 

As yesterday’s debate neared, many spoke out from personal experience, from the doctor whose patient committed suicide after the medic was forced to say he could not help him end his own life, to the family who were forced to watch a loved one suffer awfully when the Covid pandemic prevented an overseas journey for assistance, and even a Tory peer who had voted against assisted dying, but changed his mind, when his father died in pain and would have chosen assisted dying.

There is no doubt we need to see far better investment in palliative care in the UK. We shouldn’t have to see volunteers rattling fundraising buckets for hospices to meet their basic funding needs. But that goes along with the right for individuals to be in control – knowing that the option of assisted dying is available will allow many to die naturally in far less fear. 

The British Medical Association has just ended its opposition to assisted dying, the Royal College of Physicians did so in 2019, the courts have clearly indicated this is a matter that Parliament should address. 

Read the whole article here

Jenny and Natalie were unable to attend the debate, as it took place on Friday afternoon at the same time as Green Party Conference, but you can read the debate in the House here