A conscience vote in the UK on euthanasia

The Telegraph reports:

The legislation of assisted suicide has moved a significant step closer after the Government made clear that it would not stand in the way of a change in the law.

Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs and peers – including Coalition ministers – will be given a free vote on a Bill that would enable doctors to help terminally ill patients to die, The Telegraph can disclose.

That will be a fascinating vote. There will be MPs in all parties both for and against.

Under the 1961 Suicide Act, it remains a criminal offence carrying up to 14 years in jail to help someone to take their own life.

Four years ago, the Director of Public Prosecutions issued guidelines that made clear that anyone who assisted a loved one to die while “acting out of compassion” was unlikely to be charged. Since then, around 90 such cases have been examined and no one prosecuted.

So there is a de facto legalisation. It is appropriate the law reflect the reality.

A Bill drawn up by Lord Falconer, a former Labour lord chancellor, to legalise “assisted dying” – allowing doctors to prescribe a lethal dose of drugs to terminally-ill patients – is before the House of Lords. Peers are expected to vote on the plans in the next four months.

If the Bill is supported there, it will then pass to the Commons where some MPs say they have detected growing support for the move – influenced by opinion polls suggesting that up to three quarters of the public would support a change in the law.

A 2010 poll found 82% in favour and just 13% opposed.

Observers in Parliament estimate that just over a third of MPs would back a change in the law, a smaller group is strongly opposed, and up to 40 per cent are undecided.

I think a change to allow for terminally ill people in pain would gain the support of most MPs in the NZ Parliament.

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