UK MPs vote for the duty to suffer and reject the right to die

We live longer but – as a recent study suggested – have longer periods of disabling conditions at the end of life. It was suggested that – on average – our increase in longevity meant that we also had an increasing period of “vegetable-like living” and that this period was of the order of 10 years. Life expectancy is increasing faster than “healthy life expectancy”.

Science Daily: Global life expectancy at birth for both sexes rose by 6.2 years (from 65.3 in 1990 to 71.5 in 2013), while healthy life expectancy, or HALE, at birth rose by 5.4 years (from 56.9 in 1990 to 62.3 in 2013).

That is 9.2 years of “unhealthy life” in a total of 71.5 years (12%). It would seem that each increase in life expectancy consists of about 90% of that increase being “healthy”.

But UK MPs believe the elderly have a duty to suffer. Virtually every organised religion lobbied against the bill to allow assisted dying and the bill was duly quashed yesterday. Yet about 80% of the UK population support such a bill. Perhaps this bill did not have enough safeguards but that was not the reason the bill was rejected. The real reason, I think, is the puritanical view of suffering being a duty – especially when it is the suffering of others.

There is no parliament in the world where the over-70s are not grossly under-represented. There is something illogical when medical assistance is available to terminate a foetus – with no consent by the foetus – but medical assistance is denied to people who are suffering and who, not merely consent, but wish to terminate their suffering.

Perhaps it is the views of the sufferers which should come into play?


MPs have rejected plans for a right to die in England and Wales in their first vote on the issue in almost 20 years.

In a free vote in the Commons, 118 MPs were in favour and 330 against plans to allow some terminally ill adults to end their lives with medical supervision.

In a passionate debate, some argued the plans allowed a “dignified and peaceful death” while others said they were “totally unacceptable”.

Pro-assisted dying campaigners said the result showed MPs were out of touch.

Under the proposals, people with fewer than six months to live could have been prescribed a lethal dose of drugs, which they had to be able to take themselves. Two doctors and a High Court judge would have needed to approve each case.

Dr Peter Saunders, campaign director of Care Not Killing, welcomed the rejection of the legislation, saying the current law existed to protect those who were sick, elderly, depressed or disabled.

He said: “It protects those who have no voice against exploitation and coercion, it acts as a powerful deterrent to would-be abusers and does not need changing.”

But Sarah Wootton, the chief executive of Dignity in Dying, said it was an “outrage” that MPs had gone against the views of the majority of the public who supported the bill.

But this will come. Currently life expectancy increases by about 2 -3 months  every year. By 2100 most people will be living to over 100 years. More than half will not suffer significant degradation for any lengthy periods at the end of their lives. But up to half will – unless they have the option to choose.


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