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The Cowards of the Commons Should Ask the People

Why the matter of assisted dying should be taken to the people, if MPs are unable to represent our views

Joshua Woolliscroft

Naked Politics Blogger

MPs last week voted against assisted dying. Assisted dying is a controversial issue. One which brings up a host of long held opinions which cloud and colour the debate.

The Assisted Dying Bill gave people with less than six months to live the right to die. As a safeguard it would need the approval of two doctors, and a high court judge. And the medication would also be self-administered. This would have changed the 1961 Suicide Act, under which assisting someone to end their own life can see a sentence of up to 14 years in jail.

The debate in the Commons was forthright, impassioned, and sincere. Paul Flynn MP read out a constituent letter written by a man forced to watch his wife starve herself to death. MP for Central Ayrshire Dr Whitford said proper palliative care could mean a “beautiful” death and worried about dying people facing the option of “…the black capsule”.

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Our representative assembly is world leading, we have so many learned people willing to bring their eloquence and rhetoric to these issues. My issue with the recent vote is not that the points weren’t’t well argued, or that the views weren’t sincere. My issue is that our representative assembly has not represented the will of the nation. A recent poll suggest that 80% of Britons support an assisted dying law, 74% of MPs voted against the bill. This is an outrage.

Assisted dying is a matter of conscience. I understand the difficulty of, for example a Roman Catholic MP voting for this law. In that instance perhaps said MP should make an honourable abstention. Principles are fine; but not when they fly in the face of the overwhelming view of your electors. Elected representatives of the people should not be acting on their own prejudices. They should be reflecting popular constituent sentiment. Paul Flynn suggested that this question should go to the country at large in the form of a plebiscite. Ireland led the way this year by asking a big question about equal marriage. We should follow suit. If our representatives lack the stomach to vote on matters of the soul, then we should take it to the people. I’m sure we’ve got the guts.

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