Ex-Speaker’s new call for clarity on assisted dying laws

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PARLIAMENT has been accused of abdicating its responsibilities on the assisted dying debate by Betty Boothroyd, the former Speaker of the House of Commons.

In an impassioned speech in the House of Lords, the Dewsbury-born peer said it should be up to Parliament – and not the courts – to set the legal parameters. She described the current uncertainty as “a blunt instrument” that “adds cruelly to the suffering of people who want to die with dignity”.

“We have abrogated our responsibility as a sovereign Parliament to an employee of the Crown. We should not tolerate this farming out of Parliament’s duty any longer, however hard the Supreme Court tries to rectify matters,” said Baroness Boothroyd who was the first female MP to become Speaker.

“I was struck by a report about the trauma following the assisted death of a man suffering from the degenerative disorder Huntington’s disease that was slowing killing him, as it had some of his relatives. Responding to his pleas, his mother helped him die painlessly.

“She was tried at the Old Bailey and paid costs of £20,000. Instead of going to prison for 14 years, she was given a year’s conditional discharge and praised for her courage. Even so, the judge warned that others charged with the same offence could not expect such leniency. That cannot be right.

“Few people have the means to end their days in a Swiss clinic where suicides are a paying proposition. Of course there must be robust and foolproof safeguards for those who are terminally ill and wish to die with dignity.

“This is a moral issue whose time has come and Parliament should resolve it.”

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