Assisted Dying Bill: St Albans and Hertsmere MPs 'not convinced'
PUBLISHED: 17:03 11 September 2015 | UPDATED: 17:12 11 September 2015
Hundreds of residents contacted St Albans MP Anne Main ahead of today's (Friday) controversial vote on the Assisted Dying Bill, which has been defeated in the House of Commons.
In their first vote on the issue in almost two decades, Members of Parliament rejected plans for a right to die in England and Wales, with 118 MPs in favour, while 330 opposed it.
The private member’s bill, sponsored by Rob Marris MP, was presented to Parliament through the ballot procedure on June 24.
It was introduced in the hope of enabling competent adults who are terminally ill to choose to be provided with medically supervised help to end their own life.
Today Mrs Main, who voted against it, said that hundreds of constituents, “often with heartfelt and personal experiences, including our own Rennie Grove Hospice” had contacted her prior to today’s debate.
She said: “I know this is a very personal and sensitive issue for many people and so it was rightly a conscience vote for Members.
“That being said, I felt this Bill would lead to a slippery slope which could add emotional pressure to those with life-limiting conditions and potentially open up to assisted suicide - as in other countries - for those who simply no longer wish to live.”
Mrs Main added: “On a personal level having lost my husband 25 years ago I know how difficult pain management and palliative care can be and so I strongly feel the focus should be to support the most vulnerable including the elderly and those with life-limiting conditions.
“Our focus should be on improving palliative care and providing support and I did not feel this Bill did anything to help the most vulnerable at a very difficult time.
“Parliament voted comprehensively against this Bill and I believe the debate today has shown Parliament at its best.”
Hertsmere MP Oliver Dowden, who is based in St Albans and abstained from the second reading vote, said it was, “a difficult and complex area that requires careful scrutiny”.
He added: “I have received a large volume of correspondence from constituents both for and against the Assisted Dying Bill.”
Prior to the vote, Mr Dowden said he thought it was ‘highly unlikely’ the bill would become law, as it was a private member’s bill, sponsored by an MP and not the government.
He added: “That said, it is an important way of testing parliamentary and public opinion. I have great sympathy for people in severe and chronic pain who wish to end their lives in a dignified way, but I have concerns about the potential for abuse.
“It is a very big step for society to start permitting the aiding of people ending their own lives. This legislation would breach the principle that doctors are only responsible for preserving lives by giving them a role in ending lives, something to which a great many are opposed.”
Mr Dowden went on: “The proposal to allow terminally ill people with less than six months left to live is also problematic. It is notoriously difficult to predict life expectancy for the chronically ill.
“I do feel strongly that we need to look at this issue but I have yet to be fully convinced that this is the correct piece of legislation.”