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Falconer Bill meets with strong opposition and makes little progress

posted 17 Jan 2015, 21:04 by Crossways Dorking   [ updated 21 Feb 2015, 12:06 ]

Thank you ever so much to those supporters who were able to write to Peers regarding Lord Falconer's Assisted Dying Bill.  Despite five hours of debate during the second day of Committee Stage today, little progress has been made on the Bill which met with considerable opposition from Peers.  Although amendments which would have narrowed the scope of the Bill were not successful, there is now very little time for Committee Stage to be completed before Parliament dissolves on 30 March ahead of the General Election and all incomplete legislation falls (progresses no further).  Any new Bill introduced after the General Election would need to begin from scratch.

We will continue to monitor the situation closely but whatever happens, we continue to urge Peers to reject this dangerous Bill and thank you for your support and prayers. (Christian Action Care)

A bill aiming to give terminally ill patients the right to die is unlikely to pass through parliament before May’s general election, after a debate in the Lords only managed to address a handful of over 150 amendmentsto be discussed.

The assisted dying bill, proposed by former Labour lord chancellor Lord Falconer of Thoroton, would provide “competent” adults who have less than six months to live with assistance to end their own life at their own request.

It is the latest in a number of attempts to get legislation on the matter through parliament and Falconer said he would try again with another assisted dying bill after the election.

During Friday’s debate, lords voted 180 to 107 against changing the wording of the bill from “assisted dying” to “assisted suicide”.

Lord Michael Cashman, the former EastEnders actor who sits for Labour, spoke passionately against this amendment, arguing that the two terms meant very different things. He admitted he had considered suicide when his partner died of cancer, whereas his partner had looked for ways to end his own suffering.

“To see him almost completely out of his senses because of the morphine, but still aware that he was unable to breathe, offered me clarity enough that I wanted to commit suicide and that my husband, who was dying, needed his death accelerated,” he said.

Prof Lord Robert Winston, the medical doctor and television presenter, spoke in favour of inserting the word suicide into the bill, saying that “fragile, deranged, angry and distressed” patients would feel pressure to end their lives if the bill was passed.

A proposed amendment by Lord Carlile to put restrictions on the type of doctors who could consult with a patient who wanted to end their own life was also defeated 119 to 61.

Although Lord Falconer admitted that his bill was unlikely to become law this parliament, he argued that the result of the day’s votes suggested that the majority of lords were now in favour of assisted dying: “Peers have now switched from being 60% against back in 2006 to 60% in favour today. Terminally ill people deserve choice and control at the end of life and today’s landmark vote shows the House of Lords now agrees, too.”

Sarah Wootton, the chief executive of the campaign organisation Dignity in Dying, said Falconer’s bill had progressed further than any legislation on the issue before it: “We are now debating how, not if, we change the law on assisted dying for the terminally ill.”

The Rev Dr Brendan McCarthy, the Church of England’s national adviser on medical ethics, rejected claims that the outcomes of the day’s debate were evidence that peers backed a change in the law on assisted suicide.

“The progress of the assisted dying bill in the House of Lords has revealed deep divisions and no consensus amongst peers over the principle of legalising assisted suicide,” he said.

“To argue that legalising assisted suicide is a ‘done deal’ and it is now simply a matter of providing government time for such legislation could not be further from the truth.” (Guardian Newspaper)