Watching How to Die: Simon's Choice on BBC2 last night has brought back a lot of memories for us. We too have direct experience of accompanying loved ones to have an assisted death. It is a difficult and unique experience that poses many challenging questions, something that Mr Binner's wife Debbie has spoken eloquently about in the last few days.
These are deep waters for humankind yet on the anti side accusations were being made by crude use of semantics, those in favour of assisted suicide were accused of being weird or ghoulish , usually by those who had not to their immense good fortune yet experienced the lingering painful death of a loved one.
The Assisted Dying Bill is a significant step backwards. When we strip away its euphemisms it is a law to help people who are frightened of pain or disability to achieve a quicker end to their life, with the support of a doctor. It undermines our respect for human life, encourages a disrespectful attitude to people with disabilities and fundamentally changes the role of the doctor.
Parliament has the opportunity to re-balance our law in this difficult and sensitive area. Unless we revert to a position of a blanket prohibition of any assistance even for those with a voluntary, clear, settled and informed decision to end their lives, we have to recognise and accept their desire for professional help from medical practitioners rather than amateur help from loved ones.
People who are able to make decisions for themselves already have the right to do so in all other aspects of their healthcare. Campaigners argue that to refuse access to assisted dying is to deny our fundamental right to self determination. Parliament has a duty however, to balance the rights of the individual against the wider impact on others and to consider the unintended harms as well as the benefits.
I will never regret that our law protected her; preventing her from ending her life when she was vulnerable to despair. Those four years we shared were the most precious gift. Without them, Mum would have missed what she described as some of the richest times in her life and we would have missed understanding just what an amazing person she was.
As a society we are clear that suicide is not something to be encouraged or assisted. Legalising assisted suicide flies in the face of that. It sends the message that, if you are terminally ill, ending your life is something that society endorses and that you might want to consider. Is that really the kind of society we want?
England has the chance through my Private Member's Bill to improve care. The Bill would require all commissioners to ensure their patient population has access to seven day specialist palliative care services, that patients and their families have a clear point of contact in a crisis, that there is advice available at all times to front line staff caring for dying patients and that such staff have all received core training in good end of life care.