Sunday, 21 November 2010

To be or not to be

There is so much going on this week that the biggie of the week feels like a long time away but I want to mention it now and invite comments because I know it's something that has sparked a big debate. It is of course Margo McDonald's End of Life Assistance Bill. Stage 1 will be debated on Thursday in the parliament. I've put in a bid to speak on it but there are many others who also wish to do so.

I don't know about anyone else but I am genuinely undecided. I came to this debate believing I would support it on the grounds that I believe every human being should have the right to make their own decisions about whether or not they live or die. However, I recognise how important this is and so I've carefully read all the letters I've received and there's one argument that really has me questioning myself. It's not the religious arguments about God giving us life and being the only one who can take it away. I respect that argument and although I choose to believe in God, I don't think I could stand in front of someone dying in pain and tell them with any great conviction that only God had the right to end that pain.

The argument that caused me to rethink is the one about elderly people believing themselves to be a burden and wanting not to be. If assisted suicide is an option legitimised by us, there is a danger that many older people will, feeling that they have nothing left to contribute, consider going down that route.

That idea horrifies me. Then again, we are at Stage One of the bill and you don't actually vote on it to become law until Stage Three so there are options for amendments to combat that. But can you combat that? What do you do? Put a robust psychological assessment in place to ensure the person is doing it for what we believe to be the right reasons?

My instinctive feeling is there are many questions to be asked and I want to allow the debate to carry on so we can explore those questions fully. Then again, if I vote to do that am I opening the door to a law that I will eventually come to the conclusion I should vote against?

I don't know. So I'm asking you. I'm sending out an e newsletter to my constituents on Monday asking them to email me or comment on this blog post and tell me their thoughts. I'm reading over the letters again, I'm going to read the bill and I'll try to speak to Margo. If I can, I'll speak in the debate and listen to everyone else. If I'm not speaking in it I'll still be watching live on TV.

The one thing I won't do is pretend to be listening when I've already made up my mind. You can be assured that whatever decision I come to it will be done with a great deal of thought, a lot of soul searching and a lot of listening. So please, comment on here (my comments are moderated and only abusive ones won't be published) or email me at and tell me what you would do and why. I really want to know.

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