Friday’s Assisted Dying debate was the most mature and informed debate in the chamber of this parliament so far. I voted against the Assisted Dying Bill which was overwhelmingly defeated (330 against – 118 in favour). However, the debate provided the opportunity for MPs to highlight gaps in the provision of hospice and palliative care.
Our doctors commit to assisting people to live and to do no harm. It is our responsibility to support them and to work harder to ensure hospice and palliative care is available for all.
In preparing for the debate on assisted suicide I took a closer look at the experience of terminally ill people in West Cornwall. We have a fantastic and much appreciated hospice in St Julia’s. The entire staff provide an incredible level of care and expertise. They (Cornwall Hospice Care) told me that they do not support assisted suicide and
that they can provide the best care for people who are terminally ill. However, they also told me that 11% of their income comes from the NHS and, to be sure to run at full capacity, this figure needed to be closer to the 30% figure.
I also met some brilliant doctors, nursing staff and care and support workers who work in our hospitals and in the community. They know how to provide the palliative care people need but there is not enough of them to ensure everyone can receive the best possible care.
We must avoid a situation where very ill people, who need to be assisted to live, would prefer to die rather than place further demand on our excellent but stretched palliative care services.
We have a responsibility to do all we can to preserve life. I hope that the debate about assisted suicide has shaken us into action to ensure that people who reach the end of their lives can access the best hospice and palliative care available. More money is needed for hospice care and a concerted effort must be made to remove barriers that prevent us from having the medical and care professionals the palliative care community need.