A right to die with dignity

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A RIBBLE Valley Euro-MP says that the failure of politicians to allow people to seek medical help to die amounts to “cruelty and barbarism”.

Liberal Democrat MEP Chris Davies spoke out as author Sir Terry Pratchett, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2008, used a controversial TV documentary on Monday to highlight procedures at the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland.

The MEP, whose North West constituency includes Ribble Valley, argues that it is wrong that British citizens suffering unendurably and with no hope of recovery should have to travel to Switzerland to die at a time of their own choosing.

Mr Davies, who has made a study of procedures in Belgium and the Netherlands where they are legal, says that less than 2% of people who die in those countries seek help to do so. Almost all do so at home, with their family around them.

But he argues that the availability of such assistance gives comfort and relief to many more people who are fearful of a death without dignity.

Mr Davies said: “This is a matter of human rights. While palliative care will always be the choice for the great majority facing an otherwise painful death, people for whom life has become intolerable should not be forced to live against their will. Their wishes should be respected and to deny them medical assistance to die is cruel and barbarous.

“Polls suggest that some 80% of people in Britain want such a change in the law with safeguards against misuse.

“The Coalition Government should find the courage to introduce legislation on the issue. While I accept that MPs should have a free vote, it is unacceptable that people in appalling circumstances should have to travel to Switzerland to have their wishes respected.”