Yorkshire MP Paul Blomfield in tears as he shares story of his father death in Westminster debate
Sheffield Central MP Paul Blomfield had to stop several times as he told the story of how his father took his own life after receiving a diagnosis for inoperable cancer.
He told MPs that changing the law could have enabled his dad to “stay longer” and “go at the time of his choosing”.
Currently, assisted dying is illegal in England and Wales under the Suicide Act 1961.
Under the Act, someone judged to have helped the suicide or attempted suicide of another person can be imprisoned for up to 14 years.
Speaking on the anniversary of his father’s death, Mr Blomfield told a Westminster Hall debate: “Like an estimated 300 people in the UK every year, he took his life after a terminal diagnosis, and although I still find it difficult to talk about, I want to share his story today because he would have wanted me to and because his experience echoes that of so many others and informs, I think, a central issue in our discussion.”
Holding back tears, the Labour MP said: “11 years ago today, it was also a Monday. I got a phone call here. He had been found dead in his garage.”
“I had spoken to him the previous night, on the phone as I walked through St James’ Park, an ordinary conversation that gave me no inkling of his plan.”
He added: “I was shocked and clearly still struggle with it but I shouldn’t have been surprised because he had always believed that the law should be changed to allow assisted dying, and let’s be clear – and we should be very clear about the terms we use – my dad wasn’t suicidal.
“He loved life. He was 87. But at that age he had inevitably watched many of his friends go, often miserably, horrific deaths.
“He talked with me about their last days and he had always been clear that he would rather end things than face a lingering and degrading death but I still wasn’t expecting it.”
Mr Blomfield said a terminal diagnosis of inoperable lung cancer “clearly led to his decision to take his life”, adding: “He couldn’t talk to me about it or his partner because he would have made us complicit.
“The current law forced my father into a lonely decision and a lonely death and he died prematurely because I am sure that what drove him to end his life at that point was the fear that if he didn’t act when he could and was still able to do so, he would lose the opportunity to act at all.”
He said: “If the law had made it possible he could have shared his plans with us, and knowing that he could, with support, go at the time of his choosing, would have enabled him to stay longer.”
Mr Blomfield said his dad and “many others like him deserve better and we here can make that possible”, adding: “We simply need to change the law as the overwhelming majority of the British people want.”
MPs debated a petition signed by more than 155,000 people calling for assisted dying to be made legal for “terminally ill, mentally competent adults”.
During the debate, Conservative former health secretary Matt Hancock called for a vote in the Commons on the matter.
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