Out of touch NI MPs reject allowing people to die in dignity

Letter to the editor
Letter to the editor

How out of touch can our Northern Ireland MPs be on assisted dying with dignity?

In the recent House of Commons debate on assisted dying 13 of our MPs voted against a measure that would have allowed assisted dying for terminally ill, mentally competent adults in England and Wales.

It would not have any effect in Northern Ireland. Is it not remarkable that we only seem to be able to get a consensus of our political representatives when it comes to conservative social attitudes, such as opposing assisted dying?

Our representatives are completely out of touch with the majority of opinion in NI, which has moved on and supports the possibility and choice of an assisted death for terminally ill patients who have expressed a will to end their own lives under strict medical and judicial oversight.

Overall, almost three in four Northern Irish adults support this with support increasing among the younger ages. The MPs’ arguments on slippery slopes and protection of vulnerable people are not backed up by evidence. In the US recently California made assisted dying lawful meaning four states have followed the 17-year-old example of Oregon and put a choice to die with dignity on the statute books.

In Oregon there is neither evidence of vulnerable people being made to have an assisted death against their wishes nor has there been a slippery slope in terms of extending the choice of an assisted death to a wider set of patients.

How do we change the attitudes of our elected representatives to listen to the people? Do we need to continue putting hard personal horror stories – of which there are many – in the press of people whose life circumstances, loss of dignity and lack of quality of life drives them to the need to consider the choice of an assisted death? Is this what’s needed to convince our representatives?

The local group of Dignity in Dying wants to have a reasoned debate based on evidence and compassion but it is hard not to feel despair as our MPs choose to ignore evidence-based debate and the great majority of their constituents support.

For Dignity in Dying

Emma Bailey, Belfast; Ronnie Carser, Belfast; Lynda Foy, Larne; Bert Rima, Belfast; Danielle Small, Belfast; Ruth Yeo, Belfast