The Assisted Dying for the Terminally Ill Bill is expected to reach its Committee Stage in the Lords in November. With this in mind we have invited Dr Peter Saunders, Campaign Director for the Care not Killing Alliance, to speak on the Bill at Christ the Prince of Peace, Weybridge, on Thursday 16th October at 7.30pm. Click here to find out more…The Assisted Dying for the Terminally Ill Bill is expected to reach its Committee Stage in the Lords in November. With this in mind we have invited Dr Peter Saunders, Campaign Director for the Care not Killing Alliance, to speak on the Bill at Christ the Prince of Peace, Weybridge, on Thursday 16th October at 7.30pm.

The Care Not Killing Alliance is a UK-based alliance of individuals and organisations which brings together disability and human rights groups, healthcare providers and faith-based bodies including the Catholic Church. As their name suggests, their aim is both to campaign for improved care and to oppose any liberalisation of current laws against euthanasia and assisted suicide.

Dr Saunders is a retired general surgeon with an MA in Bioethics. He is also a Baptist with a deep personal commitment to the protection of vulnerable human life. He has his own blog, where he provides very helpful evidence-based analysis and resources on many relevant issues including, for example, the experience elsewhere where euthanasia/assisted suicide has been legalised. Much of this goes unreported in the mainstream media. He is also Chief Executive Officer of the Christian Medical Fellowship. We are very grateful to him for finding the time, particularly in the run up to the Bill, to brief us. If you are involved in healthcare then you might also be interested a half-day forum in Crawley, open to all healthcare workers and entitled “Death, Dying and Assisted Dying”. It is on Saturday, 18th October. More information here.

A bit of context for the Bill:

This is the latest in a series of attempts to legalise assisted suicide, both through specific Bills and through amendments to other bills before Parliament. All previous attempts have failed. All specific Bills were introduced in the Lords and failed to get beyond the ‘Second Reading’ stage there. So none of these has been debated in the Commons. (The first link above has a graphic which explains the Parliamentary stages.) This time, however, the Bill is expected to reach the Lords Committee Stage in November. It will then be considered line by line. This is normally the work of a small group of Lords who then report back to the whole House. But on this occasion the Committee will be the whole House. That the Bill is making more progress than all previous attempts may be due in part to the Supreme Court ruling in the case of Nicklinson et al in June. The Court was challenged under the right to privacy under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights to permit assisted suicide. The Court was sympathetic to the argument but said that Parliament which should consider this first. Leading opponents of the Bill in the Lords declared that they would not force a vote at Second Reading because of this judgment. Although it is unlikely that the Bill will be considered by the Commons ahead of the General Election and therefore lapse, how it is treated now may well determine whether another attempt is made after the General Election and may well influence the then Government as to whether it is given sufficient Parliamentary time to go through all its stages. Given the one-sided nature of the public debate, with its somewhat superficial arguments, the steady stream of media figures coming out in favour and the benign fictional depictions, rejection of any new Bill cannot be assumed. How people respond to this Bill may well, therefore, be key to how Parliamentarians respond to any future Bill. They will certainly be taking careful note.

We are all free to write to any number of peers. I should soon have a helpful short(er)list of the peers who may still be undecided. Please contact me if you are interested. We might also write to the PM (or to his office, at least, see bottom of this page) and to our own MP. We are advised to keep letters short, to cover just one or two key points and to bring in any relevant personal experience.

There is much more that could be said and I hope to provide some thoughts later but meanwhile these commentaries and briefings may be of interest:

On the nature and quality of the public debate, consider this Comres poll, summarised here.

Official Parliamentary Briefing

Official Press Summary of Nicklinson et al

Assisting the Suicidal and Caring for the Dying (Professor David Albert Jones, Director of the Anscombe Bioethics Centre). Note, particularly, the comments under “Dignity, Morality and Solidarity” re the framing of the debate which circumvents the fundamental question.

Physician-assisted suicide: Some Reasons for Rejecting Lord Falconer's Bill (Professor John Keown – one of the clearest thinkers and writers on this topic: His book “Euthanasia, Ethics and Public Policy” certainly sorted out my thinking)

Catholic Bishops' Conference: Sense and Nonsense on Assisted Dying