All 1 Baroness Blackstone contributions to the Assisted Dying Bill [HL] 2021-22

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Fri 22nd Oct 2021
Assisted Dying Bill [HL]
Lords Chamber

2nd reading & 2nd reading

Assisted Dying Bill [HL] Debate

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Department: Ministry of Justice

Assisted Dying Bill [HL]

Baroness Blackstone Excerpts
2nd reading
Friday 22nd October 2021

(2 years, 9 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Blackstone Portrait Baroness Blackstone (Ind Lab)
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My Lords, I support this Bill, as an assisted dying law is needed to address the unacceptable suffering of dying people and the dangerous lack of protections in the current law. Since assisted dying was last debated, we have stronger, more compelling evidence that the current blanket ban on assisted dying does not work. We know that people are forced to travel overseas to exercise control over their death, that some people remain beyond the reach of even the best palliative care and that others are being driven to end their lives in lonely and violent ways.

My grandmother was in the third of these categories. Terminally ill in hospital, riddled with cancer and suffering horribly, she desperately wanted to die. One night, she took her own life by swallowing sleeping pills that she had brought into hospital with her. My mother found the empty pill bottle in her bag the next day. How much better it would have been for her if assisted dying had been available, allowing her children and grandchildren to be with her, providing her with comfort, affection and love, instead of her terribly lonely death after prolonged suffering.

Research published this week by Dignity in Dying estimates that, like my grandmother, up to 650 dying people end their lives each year and up to 6,500 try to do so. We must acknowledge just how many people are adversely affected by the current blanket ban on assisted dying. In 2015, during the Committee stage of the Assisted Dying Bill of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, amendments tabled to the Bill that would have inserted the phrases “assistance with suicide” and “commit suicide” were rejected by this House in recognition that the word “suicide” does not accurately reflect the assisted dying process. Some opposing this Bill are, again, referring to assisted suicide, but they should know that they are out of touch with the public when giving this description of what this Bill would legalise: 73% said that the Assisted Dying Bill was the appropriate title, whereas just 10% said it should be the Assisted Suicide Bill.

People who are terminally ill and near the end of their lives want to control the way they die. Presenting this as suicide is misleading: it does not reflect the academic literature or the views of dying people and their families. A change in the law would reduce anxiety and horrible suffering. It would create a law that would be open, transparent and, above all, humane, with strong protection through appropriate safeguards for the vulnerable. It would respect public opinion, given that 80% of people of faith and an overwhelming 84% of the general population support assisted dying.