The House of Lords rejected, on 7 July, a bid to allow relatives to help terminally ill people travel abroad to die, following an impassioned plea by a severely disabled peer. Baroness Campbell of Surbiton, who was born with spinal muscular atrophy, told how doctors had tried to persuade her that her life was at an end.
She said that many would come under similar pressure from family members if the law was relaxed. In an emotional speech, the former chairman of the Disability Rights Commission said the change proposed by former cabinet member Lord Falconer would have given the ‘green light’ to ‘state sanctioned assisted dying’.
Lord Falconer’s amendment to the Coroners and Justice Bill would have removed the threat of prosecution from a person who helps a terminally ill patient travel to a country where euthanasia is legal. But peers voted 194 to 141 against the proposals, with opponents calling it the first step on the road to legalising euthanasia.
During the speech, Baroness Campbell said: ‘I tick every box of Lord Falconer’s criteria to die. I could go tomorrow and, believe me, I would have no trouble in persuading two doctors. Three years ago two doctors persuaded me it was time for me to go on my way’.
According to the Daily Mail it was revealed last month that almost 800 Britons are thinking of travelling to the Dignitas suicide clinic in Switzerland – ten times the level of seven years ago.
Although no one who has helped a sick person get to the clinic has been prosecuted in the UK, if they were prosecuted they could face a 14-year prison sentence under current law. The 1961 Suicide Act criminalises anyone who aids, abets, counsels or procures someone else’s suicide.