Why I protested against the Assisted Dying Bill

Lord Falconer’s Assisted Dying Bill had its second reading in the House of Lords today. It is a bill designed to enable competent adults who are terminally ill to be provided at their request with specified assistance to end their lives.

I am against the bill. I don’t think the state should be sanctioning suicide, and I think this bill is part of, and will help further to consolidate, a culture of despair that exists today. I have experienced close relatives being told that they are going to die, and I have sat by their bedsides as they have died, so I am aware of what many people endure in their final weeks and days, and I know for sure that it makes them no less human.

Today, I went to the Houses of Parliament, where two opposing sets of demonstrators were in pens side-by-side. I joined the ‘No to the Bill’ side. The ‘Yes’ side were greater in number and their protest was more intense. They were very well-organised, with lipstick-pink t-shirts. They all seemed well turned out, perfectly groomed: ladies from Hampstead, stick thin, in long, floaty linen dresses with benign, patrician, intelligent faces. The cars and taxis going past were hooting for ‘Yes’.

Sadly, the ‘No’ side was a very different story. It was a smaller and, I’m afraid to say, more bedraggled bunch. Many were in wheelchairs; there were also earnest-looking ‘pro-lifers’ with sensible sandals on and pudding-bowl haircuts. I definitely felt on the more unpopular side of the fence. We got no car hoots or calls of support from the public as they walked by.

As I was standing in this ‘No’ pen, I overheard a heated argument between a ‘No’ protester and a ‘Yes’ protester. The ‘No’ girl was arguing that human life is sacred and it was not up to man to take it away. The ‘Yes’ demonstrator replied that people die every day, human life isn’t such a big thing, and besides, the planet would probably be better off with fewer of us. I’m certain this man doesn’t represent all those on the ‘Yes’ side. But listening to him reminded me why a law that would be passed in the name of humanity but, at the same time, sanctioned the ending of problematic or hard human lives should give us all pause for thought.

Jane Sandeman is convenor of the Institute of Ideas Parents’ Forum.

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