The Prime Minister David Cameron has expressed his opposition to assisted suicide in advance of the issue being debated in Parliament, arguing that people who are terminally ill will feel unfairly pressurised into ending their lives.
Mr Cameron has opposed assisted dying before but he was speaking out because the private members' bill drawn up by Lord (Charles) Falconer of Thoroton, the Labour peer and former Lord Chancellor, is due to be debated in the House of Lords in coming weeks. The bill would allow terminally ill patients to end their lives if two doctors confirm they are unlikely to live more than six months. Health minister Norman Lamb has said he is in favour of a law to allow assisted suicide.
But the Prime Minister was careful to stress that any vote in the House of Commons would not be whipped and voiced concerns over patients coming under pressure.
“It’s a free vote issue and should be treated as such. I think the House of Lords is doing useful work by debating this and bringing out some of the arguments. But my worry has always been about whether people will be unfairly pressurised. But it’s a matter of conscience,” said Mr Cameron.
Lord Falconer told The Tablet: “My bill contains safeguards to prevent people being pressured. It is better than current law where any investigation on pressure only takes place after death.”
But opponents to the move – including Lord Carlile of Berriew and Baroness Butler-Sloss – say the safeguards in the bill are inadequate.
Assisted suicide, opposed by the Church, is legal in Switzerland, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg.