I have been overwhelmed by the response from constituents regarding this important and very emotive issue. My consultation was an unprecedented exercise carried out by a Member of Parliament and I am pleased that so many people used this opportunity to start a conversation with me. I received around 2000 responses and I would like to begin by saying thank you to everyone who participated.
I have also been heartened by the letters, emails and additional comments that have spoken of personal heartache by, and for, a loved one. I decided to vote against the Assisted Dying Bill. It was with a heavy heart that I made my decision and I have found myself conflicted all week as to how I should vote.
Many of the responses that asked me to vote in favour talked about not wanting to be a burden. In the end this was what made up my mind. In a speech I prepared to deliver in the House of Commons I said, “Far from being a burden, it is a privilege to look after one’s parents in the last years, months and indeed weeks of their life. I am completely sure, from my own experiences, that most families will want to take on that responsibility and would be horrified if they thought their parents were considering this option because they didn’t want to be burdensome.”
I was also concerned about the potential to fundamentally change and perhaps damage the patient doctor relationship and I had concerns about a patient who couldn’t self-administer.
It is important to note that many of my constituents who supported the bill did so under the false assumption that it would allow individuals with conditions such as Alzheimer’s, Motor Neurone Disease or Parkinson’s to end their life. This would not be the case. This bill would only be for terminal patients in the last six months of their life, although I am told it is notoriously difficult to predict when a person will die.
I know that the decision I have made will not be popular with everyone and I know that people will contact me in the future perhaps angry and frustrated about the lack of support and help they can offer a loved one in the final stages of their life.
But I remain of the opinion that we should be focusing our support and resources on palliative care so that everyone can benefit from a dignified and pain free end when the time inevitably comes.
I could not look myself in the mirror or you in the eye if this opened the gate to a future euthanasia bill such as that in Belgium where even children can request an end to their lives.
I was elected to take tough decisions and this has been the most difficult yet. I don’t imagine many will be more difficult. I promised to involve you and to be honest throughout and that is what I have done.