05 November 2013
Peers oppose assisted dying bill
Parliament will write a "blank cheque" for euthanasia if it backs proposals to legalise assisted dying, three senior peers have warned.
In a report published today, Baroness Butler-Sloss, Lord Carlile QC and Lord Brennan QC said that a Private Members' Bill tabled by the former Lord Chancellor, Lord Falconer, would "fundamentally change" the law on suicide.
The bill would enable some terminally ill patients access to drugs to end their lives.
It lacks proper safeguards to help gauge whether or not a patient meets the criteria of eligibility, the peers warn in their report "Assisted Dying and the Law", which amounts to "asking Parliament to sign a blank cheque". Supporters of Lord Falconer's bill have called for Parliament to vote on the principle of the bill and for experts to work out guidelines once it has passed.
"As legislators we have a duty to satisfy ourselves that any laws we enact will work in practice and will not put vulnerable people at risk of harm," Baroness Butler-Sloss and Lords Carlile and Brennan warn.
"Of course Parliament must consider the principle of the bill. But we should not forget that public safety is itself a key principle of legislation," they write.
The three peers also back the law as it stands, which they say is enforceable, protects vulnerable people and allows doctor-patient dialogue. "[It] accurately and conscientiously reflects the perceptions which, as a society, we have of suicide" - that while those who attempt to take their own lives should not be punished, suicide itself is not something to be encouraged or assisted.
The second reading of the Bill in the House of Lords has yet to be scheduled.
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