Gary's News and views

Gary Streeter MP for South West Devon

Gary writes a weekly article which appears in the Plympton Plymstock and Ivybridge News in South West Devon. The articles are published here.


Thursday, 13 August 2015


It is against the law in the UK to help somebody to commit suicide, which is why some opt to go to countries, like Switzerland, where such action is lawful.

A private members bill is being introduced in the Commons in September to propose a change in our law which would allow, under strict conditions, people in the UK to help their loved-ones depart. The debate and vote will be on Friday 11th September.

I have received many e-mails and letter about this, on both sides of the argument. (As an aside, people sometimes ask why not just vote as constituents demand – answer: they are nearly always completely divided, as on this.)

This is a very difficult and complex issue. I have great sympathy with those who have seen a loved one suffer and been powerless to bring that suffering to a dignified end under the law. This has happened in my own family.

Yet I will be voting against this bill on for 2 reasons. First, I believe we do not have the right to decide when and how anybody else dies. That is a matter for higher powers.

Secondly, I fear a slippery slope as has happened in Holland and in the UK regarding abortion.

The 1967 Abortion Act provides that an abortion shall be legal if "the continuance of the pregnancy would involve risk, greater than if the pregnancy were terminated, of injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman or any existing children of her family."
Two doctors have to certify this risk. Doubtless, it seemed water-tight at the time.

As everybody knows we have abortion on demand in this country and the issue of risk has effectively been abandoned even though the law has not changed. Some doctors sign their consent in advance, without assessing risk. We even have abortions because the child-to-be was the wrong sex.

Once we breach the legal line on assisted dying, I am certain that exactly the same would happen. The law might relate strictly to terminal illness, two doctors would need to give consent – but how long before anybody who wishes to die would be assisted down this path, no matter how temporary that wish might be. How much family pressure might be applied to the elderly frail who have "had a good innings"?

It is safer by far to keep the law as it is and accept that we cannot control everything.

posted by Gary @ 09:36