Former Labor MP Frank Field has announced his support for assisted dying and revealed that he is dying himself.
Lady Meacher read a statement from Lord Field in the House of Lords, in which peers are discussing a new bill to legalize terminally ill adults seeking assistance to end their lives.
He said he had recently spent time in a hospice and was not well enough to participate in the debates.
Lord Field urged other members to support the bill in his absence.
The 79-year-old spent 40 years as an MP for Birkenhead and briefly served as welfare reform minister in Tony Blair’s first term in office.
He has built a reputation as one of the most effective supporters of the House of Commons, campaigning against poverty and limiting immigration to the EU.
He left the Labor group in Parliament in 2018, saying Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership had become “a force for anti-Semitism in British politics”.
He was named an unaffiliated and cross peer by the Conservative government in 2020 after campaigning for Brexit.
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Lady Meacher told colleagues: “Our colleague, Lord Field, who is dying, has asked me to read a short statement.”
In the statement, he said that “I have just spent some time in a hospice and I am not well enough to participate in today’s debate. If I had been, I would have expressed a strong opinion.”
He also explained his change of mind on the matter, saying, “I changed my mind about assisted dying when a friend in parliament was dying of cancer and wanted to die soon before the effects of the horror started, but I was denied this opportunity.” .
Lord Field said that a particular argument against the bill is “unfounded”, adding: “It is thought that culture would change and people would be forced to end their lives.
“[But] the number of deaths witnessed in Australia and the United States remains very low – below 1% – and a former Supreme Court Justice in Victoria, Australia, [talking] on pressure from relatives he said it was simply not a problem. “
He concluded: “I hope that the House will vote today for the assisted death bill.”
Debate among peers
The new bill was proposed by Lady Meacher – a counter peer – and would give sane patients with six months or less left to live the right to die on deadly drugs.
The person who wants to end their life should sign a declaration which has been approved by two doctors and signed by the High Court.
But even if it were approved by the Lords, it would not become law unless it was supported by the MPs of the Commons and the government.
Lady Meacher and Lord Field are among peers in favor of the changes, but others have spoken out against the bill, including Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, who told BBC Breakfast that vulnerable people may face “intangible pressure.” “to end their lives.
Speaking in Friday’s debate, another colleague, Lord Curry, also opposed the bill, describing how it would be a “tragedy” if his daughter – who had a learning disability and died at 42 – had the his life interrupted.
“She took her last breath as we held her hands, a very emotional and precious moment for us,” he said.
“If someone at that time offered an option of assisted death, assisted suicide, I firmly believe that in that high emotional state we were in, without thinking rationally, we might have been tempted to accept his premature death. If we had. done, it would upset us for the rest of our lives. “
- Euthanasia and assisted death
- Frank Field
- The House of Lords
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