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Lord Joffe: My Lords, I am grateful to those of your Lordships who have spoken in what I believe to have been a truly remarkable debate. I thank those who came to listen to it and those who have travelled from different parts of Europe to vote, if there is a vote, in support of the Bill. I also thank the Minister for his thoughtful analysis and approach, which dealt with both sides of a very difficult picture. I want to say a
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particular thank you to some of the Peers who spoke against the Bill. I listened to what the noble Lords, Lord Nickson and Lord Mawhinney, said; I have great respect for their views, and what they said weighs heavily on my mind.
The time is late and I do not doubt that many of your Lordships are keen to get away and begin your weekend; I am grateful that you have all stayed so long. Accordingly I will be relatively brief and will not seek to respond to the 85 or so Peers who have spoken. However, I will select a number of points that I have to deal with.
A comparison with the Abortion Act was made, possibly by the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, although I am no longer sure whether he was the individual in question. A lawyer comparing the safeguards in the Abortion Act, which effectively allows abortion on demand, with the safeguards in this Bill will realise there is no comparison, and no basis upon which to deduce from what has happened since the Abortion Act has been in place that any slippery slope would result from this Bill.
Many of the contributions have been about the excellence and importance of palliative care. I so agree with that. I, too, am passionate about palliative care and hope that the Government will make available the necessary resources for it to be developed so that the patchy quality can be improved and the gaps throughout the country closed. Every time I heard somebody say how wonderful and remarkable palliative care had been in a number of cases, I applauded. I particularly liked what the noble Viscount, Lord Tenby, had to say: that this Bill, if nothing else, had opened up the whole issue of palliative care, and would be a legacy to a future in which we all have the amount of palliative care needed in this country. I add to that that I hope it will also be a legacy that evolves along the lines of my Bill, which deals with the care and prevention of unnecessary suffering. I am sure that is something we all wish to achieve.
I must say at this stage how much I resent what the noble Lord, Lord Carter, had to say: that the purpose of this delay in introducing the Bill was anything to do with getting publicity. I explained the reasons in relation to my discussions with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay, and in addition I made a desperate plea for a date in March. It was available on a Friday, and they told me in the Whips' Office that this was reserved for government business, which never emerged. I still regret that we could not have had this debate earlier.
Lord Mackay of Clashfern: My Lords, I would just like to intervene to say that I was extremely grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Joffe. He wished to accommodate me so far as possible. I indicated to him that he did not need to do so, but that was his wish, and that was a considerable reason why ultimately he had to take this date.
Lord Joffe: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord for that intervention. I notice that the
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noble Lord, Lord McColl, made a number of announcements. I could make an announcement that the noble Lord, Lord Patel, who was a member of the Select Committee, also supports this Bill, and is sorry that he is unable, because of his international commitments, to come to talk to us. He was part of the majority of the Select Committee that supported the Bill.
The noble Lord, Lord Hylton, made reference to a survey of which I have never heard before, which quoted all sorts of interesting statisticsvery different from all those which had emerged elsewhere. I suggest that the noble Lord show his survey to the noble Lord, Lord Moser, and ask him his opinion of it.
I must comment on the Church's campaign in relation to this debate. Members of the House have paid such careful attention to the innumerable letters they have received. I draw attention to the fact that on the original Bill many letters were received from people who were terminally ill, or had gone through the experience of loved ones suffering terminal illness, and they all set out very moving details of their experience and their wishes. I am sure many Members of this House will recall those letters. Dignity in Dying, which of course supports this Bill, thought it had presented Peers with a range of letters, and did not want to duplicate that.
I come back to the role of the Church. Naturally it has every right to campaign against the Bill. The right reverend Prelates who have spoken today did what we would expect from our religious leaders: offered a rational and balanced dissection of the case for the Bill and why they thought it should be opposed. But outside the House we have seen a scaremongering campaign, with anecdotal and inaccurate statements, snappy soundbites such as "duty to die", "care, not kill"as if anyone who wants assisted dying does not careand, in the Catholic Times last month, a full-page picture of 24 young children who were killed in Nazi-era medical experiments, with the subtitle, "Warning from the past". In my respectful opinion, that campaign reflects no credit on the Churches. As an admirer of the social and human rights work that the Churches do so well, it saddens me that they could allow such a photograph to be published in their response to a Bill whose purpose is to prevent suffering.
Reference was made to hate mail. Of course, I expect to get hate mail. The most recent hate mail, which I believe appeared on my computer on Tuesday, was very brief. It contained only three names. The first was Hitler, the second was Saddam Hussein and the third was Lord Joffe. I do not mind that comparisonyou take it from where it comesbut what really concerned me was why that person adopted that tone. Was it because they had seen pictures like that of the 24 children murdered by the Nazis? Was it because they had heard prominent Members of this House speak at the St Christopher's conference in the same
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breath as speaking about this Bill not only about the Holocaust, but about genocide in Rwanda? That was most inappropriate conduct.
Rather than going through my endless list and given that my noble friend Lord Marsh is pointedly looking at his watch, I will make one further point on this aspect of the debate and then deal with the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Carlile. We have brought before this court
Lord Joffe: We have brought before this House overwhelming evidence on the position in Oregon after eight years of practice. There arose there all the same fears and surmises about what might happen when the legislation was passed, but in practice there has been no abuse. Society as a whole in Oregon is operating normally. People there accept the measure as part of the normal law of the land. Medical care has not broken down. The nurses are all supportive of the measure and consider that it is part of their normal practice.
No one has answered the question: why are we different from Oregon? If Oregon has had no problems with the measure, why should it not work in the United Kingdom? Why do all the terrible things that we are told will happen not happen in Oregon? Is there anything particularly evil about British doctors or about our society as a whole? Of course, there is not. I suggest that the evidence in Oregon, which is virtually uncontested, should be accepted by the House.
Lord Joffe: I should explain what I mean by traditionsomething that has happened consistently since 1998. When 105 Private Member's Bills have gone through the House without a Division being called, that seems to me to be a sort of tradition. I have a letter from the Clerk of the Parliaments, which I have temporarily mislaid, which states that it is very uncommon for it to happen. If it did not happen during the passage of those 105 Bills, it seems a little uncommon that it should happen with this Bill. The previous legislation to which the procedure applied concerned the control of pigs. The House divided on that in 1998. That legislation was not a matter of national importance. With this Bill we have before us a matter of national importance that deserves further consideration.
Although there are differences between me and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay, on the unanimous recommendation of our committee,
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I assure your Lordships that, if I had realised when I was asked to vote for that Bill that if I dropped the major area of contentionvoluntary euthanasiathis unanimous recommendation would no longer be applicable, I and every other member who supported the Bill would not have allowed the Bill to go through a committee in which the majority of members supported the Bill.
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