David Cameron ‘not convinced’ over assisted dying bill
PM speaks of worry about legalising euthanasia, but says he would be very happy for Commons to debate issue.
David Cameron has said he is worried about moves to legalise euthanasia although he would be happy for the Commons to debate the issue of assisted dying.
Speaking ahead of a controversial debate on the issue in the House of Lords, the prime minister said he was “not convinced that further steps need to be taken” by parliament.
The issue was raised by Sir Richard Ottaway during prime minister’s questions ahead of the second reading of Lord Falconer’s assisted dying bill, which would allow doctors to prescribe a lethal dose to terminally ill patients judged to have less than six months to live.
“In the recent case of [locked-in syndrome sufferer Tony] Nicklinson on the question of assisted dying, Lord Neuberger, the president of the supreme court, said that parliament now had the opportunity to consider reform of the law in the knowledge that if parliament doesn’t act, the courts may. This could raise serious constitutional issues,” Ottoway said.
“Does he agree that whatever your views on the subject, the other place is to be commended for having a debate, but what the public really want is a debate in this House?”
Cameron also suggested William Hague, the new leader of the House of Commons, would think about allowing MPs to talk about the issue.
“I am very happy for a debate to be held here and of course there are now opportunities for backbenchers to hold debates in the chamber and I am sure the new leader of the House of Commons who I am sure we all want to welcome to his place, will be listening carefully to that request,” he said.
“For myself I am not convinced that further steps need to be taken, I worry about legalising euthanasia and people might be being pushed into things that they don’t actually want for themselves, but by all means let’s have the debate.”
Former archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey has said he changed his mind on the issue of assisted dying after considering cases like that of Tony Nicklinson and “the reality of needless suffering”.
However, the church is officially opposed to assisted dying and Justin Welby, the archbishop of Canterbury, has spoken strongly against it.
On Tuesday, leading doctors called for terminally ill patients who are suffering “unendurably” to be able to end their lives with doctors’ help, in an 11th-hour attempt to persuade the Lords to back such plans.
Twenty-seven senior figures, including 11 present or former presidents of royal medical colleges and a former NHS medical director, wrote to every peer urging them to back the bid to legalise assisted dying.