The long-awaited debate on the House of Lords’ Select Committee report on Lord Joffe's Assisted Dying for the Terminally Ill Bill took place on 10 October. In all 73 peers took part in a debate that started at 3pm and finished just before midnight. Speakers were more or less evenly divided for and against the bill (34 for, 36 against, 3 neutral) with the Select Committee members finally showing their individual hands. The seven to five split in favour of a change in the law was no surprise to anyone who had read their report.

For: Baroness Jay, Baroness Hayman, Lord Patel, Earl of Arran, Lord Taverne, Lord Joffe and Baroness Thomas

Against: Lord Carlile, Lord McColl, Baroness Finlay, Lord Turnberg and the Bishop of St Albans

The chairman Lord Mackay once again took a neutral position. There was no vote on the day of the debate but the arguments put forward will play a major part in determining future events.

The full debate can be read in Hansard on the UK Parliament website.

We would draw attention particularly to the contributions of Baroness Ilora Finlay, who spoke in depth about Oregon, Lord Walton, who chaired the last Select Committee in 1994 and remains opposed to any change in the law, and Lord Puttnam, who gave the most emotive pro-euthanasia speak in which he related the story of his mother’s death. Direct links are as follows:

Baroness Finlay

Lord Walton (his speech starts partway down the page)

Lord Puttnam

We would also recommend the speeches against euthanasia by L Carlisle, L Turnberg, L Habgood, B Knight, L Brennan, B O’Cathain and L Alton and the Bishop of St Albans. For a flavour on the pro-side read L Taverne, Earl of Arran, B Tonge, B Warnock and L Joffe.

It is clear from the Lords debate that the key issues that are driving this debate are:

  1. The belief that autonomy should take precedence over the sanctity of life
  2. Public opinion polls (allegedly 80% in favour, though the analysis of opinion polls in the Select Committee reports questions this)
  3. The fear of dying badly (fuelled by stories of bad experiences and misinformation)