Assisted Dying Debate

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Department: Home Office
Monday 29th April 2024

(2 months, 2 weeks ago)

Westminster Hall
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Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous (South West Bedfordshire) (Con)
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I think it is right that Parliament looks at this issue early in the next Parliament—whether to leave things as they are or make changes. There is clearly public pressure for us to do so.

I was not able to get to the deaths of either of my parents —they both died in hospital before I was able to get there. But I was very involved at the time of my mother-in-law’s death just over two years ago. I was privileged to help my wife, her two brothers and my three children look after her in her final weeks. My biggest observation from the privilege of looking after her in her dying days was that the pain relief was much too slow to get hold of. I spent many Saturday mornings driving around North Yorkshire to GP surgeries to ask for her morphine prescription to be increased. That is simply not good enough in this country today. The thing about pain relief is that you have to get ahead of the curve; it is no good delivering it after the pain has built up. We urgently need to look at that.

Olivia Blake Portrait Olivia Blake (Sheffield, Hallam) (Lab)
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On the point about access to morphine, for some people it is simply not an option, as they have allergies to opiates. While uncommon, they do exist for many patients going through end-of-life care. Does the hon. Member share my concerns about that and think that it should be included in the debate?

Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous
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I was not aware of that issue and I am grateful to the hon. Lady for putting it on the record.

A constituent wrote to me on Saturday about her sister, who she described as “begging” to put herself out of her misery before she died. Her death led to the nephew of my constituent taking his own life because he was so shocked by the death of his mother. None of us would want something like that to happen.

I have to say that I was deeply shocked by the remarks of the journalist Matthew Parris, who said in an article recently that he welcomes this being the thin end of the wedge, that he makes no apology for treating human beings as “units”, and that we should be making the cold calculus of inputs and outputs. I am appalled by that. I hope that every Member here is appalled by that type of discussion about our frail and elderly fellow citizens, who have a right to dignity and care until the very end of their lives. I will certainly fight back against that idea, and I want to call out what he said today in this debate.

I also think we need to look at the quality of life for people in their final days. I was sat next to one of my constituents this morning, who talked about how bored his 92-year-old father is in his dying days. That is an issue for us as well. Life should be full of stimulation. Life should provide things for people to live for, and we need to make sure that our elderly and those towards the end of their life are not bored and not lacking in stimulation such that they think they have nothing to live for.

I welcome the fact that Parliament will look at this issue. We have the commitment from the Prime Minister and from the Leader of the Opposition. There is definitely work to do on pain relief, which is not where it should be, but I want to end with a quote from Cicely Saunders, who founded the hospice movement:

“You matter because you are you, and you matter to the end of your life. We will do all we can not only to help you die peacefully, but also to live until you die.”