VOLUNTARY EUTHANASIA – 11 November 2008
Dr Julian Lewis: In view of the fact that the hon. Member for CalderValley (Chris McCafferty) took more than twice as long as the guidance from the Chair advised, I shall be exceedingly brief. I believe that the title ‘Dignity in Dying’ would be far more appropriate for the hospice movement than for the former Voluntary Euthanasia Society.
I believe that my hon. Friend the Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mark Field) was absolutely right when he said that one has to apply common sense in these terribly delicate and sensitive areas. Legislating for situations as extreme as those with which we are concerned today is not the best way to apply common sense. The law and common sense are often poles apart. I believe that the hon. Member for Bolton, South-East (Dr Brian Iddon) put his finger on the nub of the problem when he said that hard cases make bad law.
I believe above all that my own sole contribution to the debate will be to pick on a single word that has been used by the apologists for voluntary euthanasia – safeguards. They say that, of course, appropriate safeguards must be in place.
One cannot, in practical terms, put safeguards in place. One cannot safeguard a vulnerable elderly person from being pressed in private to tell the doctors that he or she wants his or her life to be ended prematurely, and one cannot have a safeguard against a selfless vulnerable person, even without pressure being applied by anyone else, feeling that it is his or her obligation to ask for euthanasia in order not to be a burden on others.
Of course, as the hon. Member for Walsall, North (David Winnick) said, there are relatively few tragedies in the present situation. Let us not substitute heavy-handed legislation to make a much larger number of abuses the consequence of ill-considered interference by the state.