UK assisted dying bill moves on after emotional Lords debate

Britain’s House of Lords has allowed a second reading to a bill that would legalise assisted suicide, which is currently a crime.

The assisted dying bill, proposed by the former Lord Chancellor, Charles Falconer, would allow doctors to prescribe a lethal dose to mentally competent patients who have less than six months to live.

But the Lords were deeply split over the bill with 65 peers speaking for it and 62 against in more than 10 hours of emotionally fraught debate on July 18.

There was no consensus among the professions, with doctors, senior lawyers, police chiefs, politicians and clergy speaking on each side.

Among those who spoke against the bill was Baroness Campbell of Surbiton, who suffers from severe spinal muscular atrophy and who spoke through a ventilator.

She said legalising assisted suicide would endanger the vulnerable and might indeed tempt her to use it in “periods of greatest difficulty”.

The bill now goes forward to a committee of the whole of Parliament for scrutiny.

Lord Faulks, responding for the UK Government, said it would not block the bill if Parliament supported it, but did not rule out making amendments.

According to The Guardian, the bill is unlikely to become law because of a lack of time.

A BBC report states it is unlikely to be debated in the House of Commons, unless it gets Government backing.

Before the Lords’ debate, leaders of Britain’s faith communities united to warn Parliament against the “grave error” of legalising assisted suicide.

Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster and Anglican Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury joined 21 other of the most senior Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Zoroastrian and Jain faith leaders to protest the bill.

They stated that the bill “invites the prospect of an erosion of carefully tuned values and practices that are essential for the future development of a society that respects and cares for all”.

Three senior Anglicans – Lord Carey, a former Archbishop of Canterbury, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Bishop Alan Wilson – had previously said they supported assisted suicide.

The Catholic bishops of England and Wales have encouraged the laity to write to politicians to ask them to oppose the bill.


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