Writing on the website Conservative Home recently, Kit Malthouse, MP for North West Hampshire, states that "the UK’s ban on assisted dying means that terminally ill people who want help to die have two options: to spend their last days travelling to a country where assisted dying is legal, or to stay here and suffer a painful and terrifying death". He adds that "thousands who cannot afford to travel suffer horribly as their loved ones stand by and watch in distress".
Mr Malthouse has been answered on Conservative Home by his colleague Maria Caulfield, MP for Lewes. She writes:
"Even the activists campaigning for legalised assisted suicide have admitted, in a document they published last month, that 'the majority of people who die in the UK will not suffer pain' and that this country has been ranked number one in international surveys for the quality of end-of-life care"
and she adds that "as a nurse who specialised in cancer care I can attest to this".
What Mr Malthouse is telling his readers is that, if they are terminally ill, they have a choice between taking their own lives and suffering a horrific death. Not only is this untrue: it also shows scant regard for the feelings of seriously ill people who may be worried about how their illness will progress and whether they will suffer pain or distress. Whatever value it has as political scare-mongering, it lacks humanity.
Mr Malthouse writes that the Supreme Court and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) have said that the existing law is not fit for purpose. The CPS has said nothing of the sort. In 2014 the Supreme Court observed that whether the law should be changed involved considerations that were more appropriate for Parliament than for the courts to judge. In 2015 Parliament did just that: it threw out Rob Marris's Assisted Dying Bill after a lengthy debate and by a huge majority. And yet it is the failed Marris Bill that Mr Malthouse is now commending to his readers. As Maria Caulfield has written, "what we are seeing is the same old proposals wheeled out yet again".
The question of whether the law should be changed to license assistance with suicide for seriously ill people is a complex and often-emotive one. The evidence on each side needs to be weighed carefully and calmly and, above all, with a clear commitment to the facts. Hitherto the debate has been conducted in a reasonably responsible manner with respect shown on each side for others with differing views and with consideration for those whose lives could be affected by what is said. It is to be hoped that Mr Malthouse's outburst is an aberration in the campaigning agenda.