Coalition MPs and Peers are to be given a free vote on Lord Falconer’s assisted suicide Bill later this year, The Telegraph newspaper has revealed.
Lord Falconer has tabled an “Assisted Dying” Bill, so that doctors can help people who have less than six months to live kill themselves – it is expected to have its second reading in the House of Lords this Summer.
But David Cameron and Nick Clegg are both against moves to weaken the law on assisted suicide.
In 2009, on a free vote, Peers defeated Lord Falconer’s previous attempt to liberalise the law on assisted suicide, by 194 votes to 141.
Prior to 2010′s General Election, Mr Clegg said he felt “morally very uncomfortable” about legislating on the issue.
His mother is Dutch, and he said that in the Netherlands, where euthanasia is legal, there is a “permissive culture” where people go beyond the law.
A Care Not Killing (CNK) spokesman said: “Various attempts to change the law on assisted suicide and euthanasia have been debated and rejected by Parliament in recent years.
“Instead of repeating this process, we should be talking about how to ensure everyone has access to the care, drugs and treatment theyneed.”
A recent consultation of the Royal College of General Practitioners upheld their opposition to weakening the law on assisted suicide, with 77 per cent of respondents being against any such moves.
CNK said it was “disappointing” that the Government is not planning to oppose the Bill more strongly.
The Telegraph quote a spokesman for the Ministry of Justice, who said: “The Government believes that any change to the law in this emotive and contentious area is an issue of individual conscience and a matter for Parliament to decide rather than Government policy.”
But the minister responsible for care for elderly and disabled people, Liberal Democrat Norman Lamb, told Sky News on Sunday that he feels the current system is “cruel” to people who want to assist in the suicide of a loved one without fear of prosecution, and said he would vote in favour of the Bill.
Last week, Baroness Campbell of Surbiton said it would be “dangerous” to legalise assisted suicide now, because vulnerable people could feel pressure to die in the wake of the recession.
During a debate on the Director of Public Prosecutions’ guidance for assisted suicide cases, she said the strain on public services has hardened attitudes towards the elderly, disabled and terminally ill who need society’s help, not pressure to kill themselves.
Baroness Campbell said: “It is not only dangerous for those who may see suicide as their only option, but can be tempting for those who would benefit from their absence.”