MPs Reject Allowing Terminally Ill Patients To Request Assisted Suicide

MPs have overwhelming voted against allowing terminally ill patients the right to ask doctors to end their lives in England and Wales.

In the first Commons vote on the issue for nearly 20 years, 118 MPs were in favour and 330 against changing the law on right to die.

The vote came after an emotional but respectful debate on the issue in the Commons today, with politicians from all sides speaking both in favour and against the change.

Labour MP Paul Flynn told of a woman who felt she had to starve herself to death in order to end her life, as he called on Parliament to be "bold" and give the public a referendum on whether assisted dying should be legalised.

MPs on Twitter reacted soon after the vote was revealed.

The Commons sat in silence as Mr Flynn read out a letter from one of his constituents. The letter began: "I've had to watch my dear wife, very old, very much in pain, very weak and desperately wanting peace, but she continued to suffer because I couldn't do the one thing she really wanted. I was helpless to assist her to die.

"Her words were: 'I don't want to leave you my love but I am very tired and I want to go now. I know you understand, please help me to die'.

"I watched my dear wife starve herself to death for three weeks." Flynn's constituent said his wife had said of the ordeal: "Please god, take me now."

MPs were debating the Assisted Dying Bill after it came top of the Private Members' Bill ballot after the general election. It has been 18 years since the last Commons vote on the right to die.

The bill would of allow doctors to prescribe a lethal dose to terminally-ill patients judged to have six months or less to live and who request it. It would only permit the patient to administer the medication to end their own life - so it would not allow euthanasia.

MPs were given a free vote on the legislation, meaning they have not been told how to vote by their parties.

Assisted Dying Bill

Assisted dying protests

Labour peer Lord Falconer introduced legislation to the House of Lords last year but failed to secure enough time for a vote in Commons. Speaking to BBC Radio 4's Today programme on Friday he said "the law has got to reflect what society wants."

Labour MP Rob Marris, who introduced the bill, said the current law was a "mess" and that his proposed legislation was about offering people "choice and dignity".

He wrote in a blog: "With appropriate, strong safeguards, terminally ill adults of sound mind should be legally allowed to choose to have assistance to end their own lives.

"I value life, and I do understand that some people believe very deeply that ending one's own life is always wrong. Nevertheless, the depth and sincerity of their belief should not mean that they deny choice to those of us who do not share their beliefs."

The bill's clauses mean that two doctors and a High Court judge would have to satisfied of the requesting patient's eligibility - defined as being terminally ill with less than six months to live, mentally fit to make the decision and aware of alternatives - before the right to die would be allowed.