I cannot in all conscience support assisted dying

Eastbourne MP Caroline Ansell outside Houses of Parliament SUS-150722-141636001
Eastbourne MP Caroline Ansell outside Houses of Parliament SUS-150722-141636001

Caroline Ansell

I have always been deeply concerned about the wider social message that legalising assisted dying would send. I am concerned that any change in the law would have damaging consequences in society’s attitudes towards the value of human life. As it stands, the law has flexibility enough to accommodate individual circumstances while maintaining the hugely important wider principle that assisting in ending another’s life is wrong. It acts as something of a safeguard for the vulnerable against those whose motives are not selfless. For every person that we might consider to have a clear and settled wish to end their life there will be countless others who are vulnerable. If, as a society we make assisted dying legal, we would be legitimising the fears and anxieties of so many sick who worry they are a burden on their family, the NHS or wider society. Changing the law could place pressure on people. There is no safeguard sufficient to stop a person feeling a burden. Greater access to palliative care is critical. Our own outstanding local hospice, St Wilfrid’s, is a shining example and a beacon of hope in this regard. ‘Legislative creep’ is also a genuine concern and a valid argument from those who lobby against assisted dying who see this as ‘a first step.’ In countries where assisted dying has been legalised, the law has gradually been extended to allow euthanasia – voluntary and involuntary – and even euthanasia for children. It is perhaps for this reason that no major disability group favours a change in the law. Supporters of the bill often point to popular polls which suggest a majority of people endorse the principle of changing the law to allow for assisted dying but what research also shows (ComRes July 2014) is that of that number, nearly half changed their position when asked to consider potential implications. This is a question of conscience, and as such I will be attending the debate on September 11 and I am sure you will understand, by the concerns I express here, that I cannot in all conscience, support it.