A Peer who has spinal muscular atrophy has told the House of Lords that legalising assisted suicide “frightens” her because she could be tempted to ask for it in the future.
Baroness Campbell of Surbiton made the comments on Friday during a debate on Lord Falconer’s Bill, which would allow patients thought to have six months or less to live to obtain lethal drugs to kill themselves.
The Bill passed its Second Reading without a vote after 126 Peers spoke on the issue.
Lady Campbell, who uses a wheelchair and relies on a ventilator to help her breathe, said that if the law had already changed and she had asked for help to commit suicide, “many would put their energies into that” rather than improving her situation or helping her to change her mind.
She explained that the Bill, “frightens me because, in periods of greatest difficulty, I know that I might be tempted to use it”.
“Helping people to live with dignity and purpose must surely be our priority”, she added.
Disabled Peer Baroness Grey-Thompson, who has won 16 Paralympic medals, also criticised the Bill, saying there is a “myth that our lives are so tragic or painful that we must want to end them”.
“Just this week I was told, ‘You must have wanted to kill yourself many times in your life’. No, I have not.”
Many other Peers raised serious concerns about the Bill, such as the problematic so-called ‘safeguards’ within the legislation.
The Bill requires two doctors to certify an assisted suicide, but Lord Tebbit noted that a similar condition for abortion is being widely ignored.
“Will there be doctors pre-signing the certificates prescribed by the Bill? What will the sanctions be against those who do so?”, he asked.
Baroness Finlay of Llandaff, who has cared for dying patients for more than 25 years, said the Bill would turn helping someone at the end of their life into a tick-box exercise.
Palliative care is “not just something on a to-do list”, she said.
“It calls for good care, dedicated support and time, and not the quick fix of offering the medical equivalent of a loaded gun”, she explained.
Christian Peer Lord Mawhinney criticised the Bill, saying he believes “life stems from and is a gift from God, and that this belief, widely shared, should govern our views on the end of life as it pervades the thoughts of many at the wonder of birth”.
The Assisted Dying Bill will now be considered at Committee Stage in the House of Lords.