The Assisted Dying Bill was defeated by a vote of MP's following a four and a half hour debate. There were a great many contributions from MP's both for and against the Bill with many extremely knowledgable either from their own personal experiences from caring for loved ones or through their professional work in the health service. The quality of the debate was high and there was a great deal of sincerity from all those who spoke, the only disappointment was that because of time constraints not everyone was able to speak and some of those contributing were not able to say all that they wanted to.
My own position on this subject was that I had an open mind and was sympathetic to the very difficult experiences people talked about when their own families died in pain. However I always had concerns about the safeguards and whether they would be sufficient to prevent abuse of the rules with people coerced into agreeing to an assisted suicide. What I found as I heard more representations and speeches was that that the most compelling arguments against this Bill related to how this could change us as a society and our attitude to not only those who are terminally ill, but anyone who is vulnerable. The hospice system does great work and many people in receipt of palliative care have peaceful deaths, but it is not universally available, nor are all the treatments that may cure or halt a disease's progress. Only this year the Government have stopped some cancer drugs being available on the NHS and I fear we could see a gradual creeping in of assisted suicide being seen as a cheaper option. We should be focusing on making death as comfortable as possible if it is inevitable and trying to prolong life. I believe this Bill would see an irreversible shift in our focus.
There were many practical concerns about the Bill as well. It states that assisted dying would only be available when a condition cannot be reversed by treatment and the patient has less than six months to live. Such prognoses are incredibly hard to make accurately. Many Doctors will have a difference of opinion on whether treatment is available and we all know of people who have been given a certain amount of time to live and have then lived for many years. Doctors are also required under the Bill to make judgements on non-clinical matters which I do not think they have the time or skills to make, which may be why the majority of the medical profession are opposed to the Bill. I counted five separate matters of a non-clinical nature that a Doctor needs to be satisfied on including that the patient has a "settled intention" and is free from "duress".
Given the number of MP's who voted against the Bill it is unlikely that it would be made a law in the foreseeable future. That does not mean that the issues raised by the Bill go away and I hope that MP's who argued in either side will reflect on some of the pressures that lead to people thinking death is the best option for them.