Assisted Dying Debate

23rd January 2020

Andrew Mitchell speaks in debate on assisted dying highlighting changes in public opinion.

Rt Hon Andrew Mitchell MP speaking in Westminster Hall, Jan 2020, Assisted Dying

I congratulate the hon. Member for Edinburgh West (Christine Jardine) on what she said and the way in which she has framed the debate.

There is no doubt that opinion is moving. I myself have changed my mind completely since I arrived in this place 33 years ago. My wife is a senior an NHS GP of some 40 years standing and, after many years of opposition, she has also changed her mind. Public opinion is moving. We should put at least some of that down to the work that has been done in the House of Lords, in particular by Lord Falconer. He has deftly aired the legal, moral and emotional issues, which has led to a majority of the House of Lords being in favour of changing the law. This place has been 75% against changing the law, but there are signs of things moving, which is a good thing.

Like my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Aaron Bell), I am new here. I paid my way through university by working in a care home for old people. Those people were my friends and I witnessed them screaming in pain and agony, asking for a death that nobody was able to give them. Unfortunately I have also witnessed family members trying, if I can put it in northern tones, to bump them off for the money. Does my right hon. Friend agree that any proposed legislation has to protect against that absolutely? That would be key to my decision.

I thank my hon. Friend and I hope we will hear much more from her. She expresses the dilemma on both sides of the argument extremely well. For the first time in 33 years I have drawn a place in the private Members’ ballot, although somewhat low down, so I am unlikely to trouble the scorers much. I am considering, and am talking to constituents about, the possibility of promoting a Bill for assisted dying, but the balance of the argument is as the hon. Member for Edinburgh West set out and an inquiry would be the right approach.

Perhaps it is a factor of age, Sir Graham, that over recent years you and I have seen more of our friends, families and constituents facing the dilemmas that this debate is examining. It seems to me that it is not for lawyers and judges to make these decisions, which is a point that has been eloquently made this afternoon. It is for us to wrestle to with our consciences, as a number of colleagues have said. We should do that. I can think of constituents, friends and family who, at the end of their lives, I have watched with the deepest concern and misery, and have reflected that we would not allow a family dog or a wild animal to be treated in the way in which they inadvertently ended up being treated. With all the protections that must, of course, be required, we need to wrestle with this issue.

When I feel that it is the time to go, I want to be able to choose the manner in my own way. I want that decision to be available to my constituents as well and, above all, I want it to be their decision and not the decision of the state.



Subsequent Intervention

What is so interesting about this issue is that I drew entirely the opposite conclusion to what my right hon. Friend the Member for South Holland and The Deepings (Sir John Hayes) said in his intervention. The conclusion that I drew was how uncertain this situation makes it for anyone put in this position, and how having to wait for a decision to be made at a time of great stress and misery in their life is so very wrong. That shows, I submit, that there are deeply felt views on both sides of this debate, and that it is for this House—this Parliament—to reach a conclusion.