VOLUNTARY EUTHANASIA – 17 January 2012

Dr Julian Lewis: If more hon. Members who support assisted suicide had participated in the debate, one word would have been heard above all others: safeguards. The only hon. Member who seemed to make the case for assisted suicide talked, in a brief intervention, about some people viewing these issues on a religious basis –  by which I think he meant that we should judge them on a rational basis. I judge this issue entirely on the basis of rationality, rather than religion; and, according to that rationality, it is impossible that the safeguards can be practical or reliable. Safeguards could not be applied to people choosing to end their lives, because the people who would try to apply them could not get into the minds of those people whose future was in question.

The case for assisted dying has been made by a number of strong-minded and articulate people who have made up their minds that they want to die, but who cannot end their lives without help. If everyone relevant to the question were like that, there would be much less of a problem; but the real reason why safeguards are thought to be necessary is twofold. One is to prevent people from being subjected to subtle pressure, which no outside person could detect. However, as my hon. Friend the Member for South West Bedfordshire (Andrew Selous) said early in the debate, even without outside pressure, there would be a danger that people would feel they had to end their lives in a spirit of self-denial, so as not to be a burden on others.

There is no way to erect safeguards to prevent subtle pressure from being applied undetectably; still less is there any way for such safeguards to prevent people genuinely deciding, although they might want to continue with their lives, that they want still more to end them so that they will not be a burden to others. We cannot apply safeguards to those cases, and that is why the case for assisted dying based on the application of safeguards is fundamentally flawed.