A proposal in favour of legalising assisted suicide has been defeated in the Welsh Assembly, after only twelve Assembly Members (AMs) voted in favour.
The motion, tabled by Plaid Cymru AM Simon Thomas, was opposed by 21 AMs from across the political spectrum, with a further 20 choosing to abstain.
The Conservative member for South Wales East, William Graham, firmly opposed assisted suicide during the debate saying that patients would be “encouraged” to end their lives.
The Welsh Assembly does not have the power to legalise the practice, however Thomas felt it was in Wales’ national interest to have the debate.
He spoke in support of a Westminister Bill by Lord Falconer, currently going through the House of Lords. It would allow doctors in England and Wales to give lethal drugs to terminally ill patients thought to have less than six months left to live.
William Graham AM spoke strongly against allowing doctors to help end people’s lives.
He said: “A large number of people who are terminally ill have found richness and purpose in their lives, despite pain and hardship.”
Graham argued that: “Good palliative care restores quality of life without needing to erase the life itself.”
Warning of a “real threat to autonomy”, he said: “Killing people is cheaper than providing palliative or long-term care, and health care resources will always be constrained.
“This must mean that health care teams and society in general will be under pressure to encourage patients to choose suicide.”
A survey by the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) this year found that most doctors in Britain are still against legalising assisted suicide.
Close to two thirds (62.5 per cent) of members of the RCP agreed that a change in the law is unnecessary, while 37.5 per cent disagreed.
When asked what the RCP’s position on assisted suicide should be, fewer than one in four said ‘in favour’ and 44 per cent said ‘opposed’.
And 58.4 per cent said they would not be prepared to actively participate in assisting a suicide, compared to 59.4 per cent who had the same view in 2006.