Labour MP: ‘It’s not left-wing to support assisted suicide’

The notion that legalising assisted suicide should be championed by the political left has been challenged by a Labour MP.

Sir Stephen Timms, Labour MP for East Ham since 1997, said it was inaccurate to portray the left-wing as ideologically in favour of assisted suicide.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer voted in favour of axing end-of-life protections for vulnerable people when the House of Commons voted on the issue in 2015. In December, after TV personality Dame Esther Rantzen came out in support for assisted suicide, Sir Keir said he thinks “there are grounds for changing the law”.

Minority support

Writing on the website LabourList, Sir Stephen said: “If ever an issue deserves careful thought, and not simply a kneejerk response, it is the issue of assisted suicide.”

He explained, “less than a decade ago, in a free vote, fewer than one-third of Labour MPs voted in favour of assisted suicide”.

Furthermore, he continued, “attempts to legislate for assisted suicide have failed to command majority support in the parliamentary party under both New Labour and in the Corbyn-led era”.

Protect vulnerable

Timms warned that stories emerging from Canada, the Netherlands, Belgium and Oregon should give the Labour Party “significant pause for thought”.

He explained: “data shows that people with disabilities, the poor and those who fear being a burden to their relatives are all at risk when assisted suicide is permitted”.

Timms continued: “investing in high-quality palliative care, which is harder to access for the impoverished, can easily be marginalised when assisted suicide is allowed”.

In conclusion, he advised prospective parliamentary candidates and MPs not to back assisted suicide, but to seek to “protect the most vulnerable, while supporting greater investment in palliative and social care”.

Sir Keir Starmer

In a recent article in the socialist newspaper Morning Star, disability campaigner Ellen Clifford criticised Sir Keir Starmer’s pro-assisted suicide stance.

The activist with Disabled People Against Cuts warned: “His vision is for a system where physicians can help patients — those meeting certain criteria outlined in legislation — to kill themselves.”

Clifford countered that disabled people “would be at the sharp end of a change in law” and that legislation “would turn on its head the traditional role of doctors in helping patients to live”.

Reflecting on the situation in Canada, she highlighted the “dangerous implications for the whole of society if it becomes normalised for people to choose suicide due to gaps in social welfare provision”.

Also see:

Hospital corridor

Widdecombe: ‘Rantzen’s campaign for assisted suicide must not prevail’

MSP: ‘Increasing numbers of Scots will die if Holyrood backs assisted suicide’

Bioethicist: ‘Legalising assisted suicide will lead to euthanasia’

Paralympic legend fears for vulnerable if end-of-life protections are removed

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