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Grantham MP Nick Boles calls for change in the law on assisted dying

Grantham MP Nick Boles has called for a change in Britain’s laws on assisted dying.

The MP led a parliamentary debate on the subject yesterday, where he and other MPs spoke movingly on the subject, often highlighting suffering from their own loved ones and constituents.

For Mr Boles it was the case of his late father, Sir Jack Boles, who after a period of illness was able to ask district nurses to turn off his oxygen when he was ‘ready to go.’

Nick Boles in the House. (13435491)
Nick Boles in the House. (13435491)

The Grantham MP, who co-chairs the all party group for Choice at the End of Life, also spoke of Geoff Whaley, who had motor neurone disease and whose only chance of a ‘good death’ was to arrange a £10,000 trip to Dignitas in Switzerland.

Mr Boles said: “Every year hundreds of other people face the prospect of great suffering at the end of a terminal illness - suffering that cannot be alleviated by our wonderful palliative care nurses - and have no legal means of doing enough to stop it."

In the first major Commons debate on the issue in four years, the MP called for a public consultation on the rules which criminalise anyone who helps a suffering person end their life.

He asked the backbench committee: "What do we think of a law that criminalises otherwise law-abiding people, such as Ann Whaley, who are simply trying to act with love in accordance with their marriage vows and their conscience?

"What do we think of a law that forces people in the final months of a terminal illness to take desperate and even dangerous steps, which may cause even more suffering to themselves and to the people whom they love, in secret and without any safeguards or support?

"What do we think of a law that denies hundreds of innocent people dignity and control as their lives draw to a close and condemns them to extreme suffering instead?

"I think it is a bad law and should be changed.”

The debate also saw a tearful Paul Blomfied MP, who spoke of his own father’s suicide after he had been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer.

The Sheffield Central Labour MP said the law had forced his father into a lonely death. He said: “If the law made it possible he could have shared his plans with us. He would have been able to say goodbye and go with his family around him, not in a carbon monoxide-filled garage."

However, other MPs warned such a law change could put pressure on people to end their own lives if they felt they were a burden.

But Mr Boles said there were safeguards in what he wants because permission would be needed from doctors and a high court judge.

Later, a junior minister said Justice Secretary David Gauke was “reflecting very carefully” on the demand for such a law change.

Mr Boles concluded: "I have changed my mind about this issue. Many people have changed their minds about it, and I hope that more people will change their minds about it so that we can get on and change the law and make this country a more humane place for people to live and die."

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