Introducing legal assisted dying could be abused by people “who want granny and grandpa to hurry up and die”, MPs have heard.
Conservative MP for Devizes Danny Kruger claimed that legalising assisted dying could also lead to “utilitarian” healthcare decisions being taken by doctors under pressure to bring down care costs.
The claim came as MPs debated a petition, which has received more than 155,000 signatures, calling for assisted dying to be legalised for “terminally ill, mentally competent adults”.
Other MPs gave their backing to the proposals, with Conservative former minister Andrew Mitchell telling MPs: “I want this to change for my constituents, I want it for myself and I want it for those whom I love.”
During the Westminster Hall debate, Mr Kruger said: “I suggest that if members think we can prevent people being put on the pathway to assisted dying by good drafting or because doctors are good people, which obviously they are, we should think about the do not resuscitate scandal we had in the pandemic, we should think about the Liverpool care pathway and then suggest that there is no risk – I think there is.
“I know doctors are good people who want the best, but if we force them to make utilitarian decisions about the best use of resources, won’t they push people in this direction?”
Mr Kruger also said he worried about unwell or elderly people who felt like a “burden” to their families, adding: “Talk to any hospice manager and they will quietly confirm it: there are a lot of people who want granny or grandpa to hurry up and die.”
However, after an intervention from Liberal Democrat MP Christine Jardine, Mr Kruger acknowledged the “overwhelming majority” of people wanted assisted dying laws for the “best of intentions”.
Conservative former minister Mr Mitchell described himself as a “convert to the cause” of legalising assisted dying.
He told the Westminster Hall debate: “My own mind has been changed on this over the years, principally as the result of the number of constituents I have spoken to who have faced terrible suffering at the end of life, or who have witnessed their loved ones dying in painful and undignified circumstances.
“I want this to change for my constituents, I want it for myself and I want it for those whom I love.”
Opening the debate, Labour MP for the Gower Tonia Antoniazzi called on ministers to properly fund palliative care alongside introducing assisted dying in law as part of “a grown-up conversation about death”.
“There will be those on the Government side who stand up today and say they are campaigning for dying well. Now if that is the case, you are in a position to make that happen, so please do.
“The palliative care system has been underfunded, please don’t try and say about dying well when you can do something about it.”
Assisted dying has been legalised in several states in the USA, in Australia and in several European countries, and proposals are currently being considered in Scotland.
YouGov polling conducted last year for the charity Dignity in Dying suggested 74% of British people wanted Parliament to back a bill to legalise assisted dying at the time, and 70% wanted to see assisted dying legalised by the next general election.
Responding to the petition, the Ministry of Justice said: “The Government’s position remains that any change to the law in this emotive and contentious area is a matter for Parliament to decide and an issue of conscience for individual parliamentarians rather than one for Government policy.
“That is not an indication that the Government does not care about this issue. Rather, because the matter is so important, and is a matter of conscience, it takes no partisan position.”
It added: “If the will of Parliament is that the law on assisting suicide should change, the Government would not stand in the way of such change but would seek to ensure that the law could be enforced in the way that Parliament intended.”
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