In a nutshell
A combination of three votes to show an MP’s position on euthanasia. The first vote in 1997 was on whether to legalise voluntary euthanasia. The second and third votes in 2000 were both on whether to ban doctors intentionally ending the lives of their patients by act or omission. MPs had liberty to vote according to their conscience on all three votes.
Three votes have been used which reveal a consistent position on the part of the MPs who voted.
Joe Ashton’s Ten Minute Rule Bill Motion: ‘Doctor Assisted Dying’
This was debated on 10th December 1997.1 The motion was: “That leave be given to bring in a Bill to enable a person who is suffering distress as a result of his terminal illness or incurable physical condition to obtain assistance from a doctor to end his life; and for connected purposes.”2
The motion was defeated by 91 votes to 236.
Ann Winterton’s Private Member’s Bill: Medical Treatment (Prevention of Euthanasia)
Euthanasia is illegal in the UK and virtually all other countries. However, a small number of court rulings in the UK, starting with the Bland judgment have legalised the intentional starvation of patients who are in a persistent vegetative state (PVS).
The BMA and the Government both argue that this was not euthanasia. Supporters and opponents of euthanasia alike argue that it was.
Ann Winterton MP proposed a Private Member’s Bill to make it illegal to intentionally kill patients by act or omission. This Bill would have closed the loophole created by the Bland judgment and also prevented any similar loopholes.
There were two separate votes on Ann Winterton’s Bill:
- Second Reading on 28th January 2000 (115 votes to 4) and
- Report Stage on 14th April 2000 (98 votes to 12).3
Though the Bill successfully passed through these stages ultimately the Government refused to allow enough time and its opponents prolonged the debate (‘filibustered’) until time ran out.
How we recorded the vote
Voted for euthanasia
All MPs who voted for the Ashton Bill.
Voted for preventing euthanasia
All MPs who voted for the Winterton Bill or against the Ashton Bill or both.
Voted against Ann Winterton MP’s prevention of euthanasia Bill
Covers a special case which applies to only two sitting MPs. Charlotte Atkins (Staffordshire Moorlands) and Sir Archy Kirkwood (Roxburgh and Berwickshire) were absent or abstained on the vote for Joe Ashton’s motion and voted against Ann Winterton. The voting pattern of other MPs at the time indicates that other MPs supported the Bland judgment because they did not believe the judgment to constitute euthanasia. Joe Ashton’s motion clearly would have permitted all types of euthanasia, but as Charlotte Atkins and Sir Archy Kirkwood did not vote on it, we cannot be sure of their own view on the general issue of euthanasia. For this reason the simple fact is recorded that they voted against Ann Winterton’s Bill. Nevertheless, whatever their reason for voting in this way, by doing so these two MPs were voting to allow the withdrawal of food and water from patients. According to our Christian beliefs, this constitutes euthanasia.
- Abstained or was absent on the votes for preventing euthanasia