UK throws out "right to die" bill

Voting for the first time in 20 years on the matter, MPs in the UK have overwhelmingly rejected assisted suicide, in what has been called the “right to die” bill.

In a free vote in the commons, 118 ministers were in favour of the proposed law and 330 voted against it.

The vote comes at the end of a long and often passionate debate, with medical bodies, the church and advocacy groups weighing in. On one side, the argument was for allowing people a “dignified and peaceful death” while others believed the proposal was “totally unacceptable”.

Under the proposal, people with less than six months to live would have been prescribed a lethal dose of drugs, which they had to be able to take themselves, according to the BBC.

Each case would need to be approved by two doctors and a High Court judge before the prescription could be given.

Interestingly, despite there being a 20-year lapse since the last vote on the issue, the proportion of MPs who voted against the move was much the same:  74 per cent of MPs voted against this bill compared with 72 per cent back in 1997.

This is, however, despite a widespread belief that public opinion is increasingly for the right for terminally ill people to choose when they die.

Sarah Wootton, the chief executive of Dignity in Dying, said it was an “outrage” that MPs had gone against the “views of the majority of the public” who supported the bill.

According to campaigning groups’ own polls, some 82 per cent of Brittons are in support of the right to die bill.

An emotional Dr Philippa Whitford, the SNP’s health spokeswoman and a breast cancer surgeon, argued that with good palliative care, the “journey can lead to a beautiful death”.

“We should support letting people live every day of their lives till the end,” she said, and she urged MPs to vote for “life and dignity, not death”.

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Could it be that it is easier to support the idea of assisted suicide or euthanasia when it is an abstract concept? That for those who can, effectively, “press the button” and let death occur, the decision is impossible to make?


If a bill like this were before the Australian Parliament, would you support it or reject it?