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MPs reject bill which would have allowed assisted dying

by Antony Bushfield

Labour MP Rob Marris' proposals failed to receive enough support to progress through the House of Commons.

He has now said it is "extremely unlikely" the proposals will be discussed in parliament again until after 2020.

Hundreds of Christians had gathered at Westminster to protest against the Bill whilst hundreds of people chanted in favour of a change in the law.

The result was an overwhelming no with a majority of 212, 330 MPs voted against the bill whilst 118 voted in favour.

The biggest bloc of No votes came from the Conservatives, division list analysis showed.

The bill was opposed by 210 Tories, as well as 91 Labour MPs and 11 from the SNP, plus MPs from other parties.

In favour were 72 Labour MPs, including Mr Marris, plus 27 Conservatives and 14 SNP, plus three Liberal Democrats and Green Caroline Lucas.

PA Wire
Hundreds of MPs voted

Christian campaign groups called it a "stonking victory for human dignity, equality and solidarity".

James Newcome, Bishop of Carlisle, and lead bishop for the Church of England on health care issues, said: "We are heartened that MPs have decided not to change the law on assisted suicide.

"We believe that the proposals contained in the Assisted Dying Bill would have exposed already vulnerable people to increased risk.

"The vote in the House of Commons sends a strong signal that the right approach towards supporting the terminally ill is to offer compassion and support through better palliative care.

"We believe that all of us need to redouble our efforts on that front."

Jonathan Brady/PA Wire

CEO of Christian charity Care, Nola Leach, said: "I'm delighted so many MPs voted against this bill and the margin of victory is clear and comprehensive.

"The legalisation of assisted suicide would have been a fundamental departure from our nation's compassionate heritage and a dangerous mistake to make.

"Far from being broken, the current law protects both doctors and patients and assisted suicide would only undermine that protection and parliament today has overwhelmingly rejected the arguments calling for a radical change to that law.
"This is a positive day for many vulnerable people who are understandably concerned by the bill which would have enabled servants of the state such as doctors to prescribe lethal medication, contradicting the vital 'do not harm' principle which underpins the medical profession."

Jonathan Brady/PA Wire
Protesters outside the Houses of Parliament in London

Revd Canon Rosie Harper was a supporter of assisted dying. She told Premier it was "very disappointing".

"There's a huge mismatch between what the population feels and the way in which MPs have voted," she said, "It needs a better and a calmer conversation I think before we revisit it in parliament."

She added: "There's been a very high level of scaremongering, scenarios have been put forward about what might happen if this were to go through, which to be honest there's no evidence for.

"They've done it [voted no] because they do believe that it's highly risky and you have to honour their opinion and hope that we can argue it more cleary next time.

"People have voted with their hearts, I think that's what's happened."

Jonathan Brady/PA Wire
Protesters outside the Houses of Parliament in London

Labour MP Rob Marris proposed the Private Member's Bill from the backbenches.

He argued the current law was a "mess" and said Parliament must "grasp" the issue.

Wolverhampton South West MP Mr Marris told MPs: "I don't know if I had a terminal illness with a prognosis of less than six months if I would.

"But I and many other people would find it comforting to know that the choice is available - to have the option of choosing a dignified and peaceful death at a time and place and in a manner of my own choosing, at my own hand.

"I think there's been a trend in our society, which I support, in many cases that if the exercise of a choice does not harm others in a free society, we should allow that choice."

PA Wire
Deputy Speaker Eleanor Laing reads out the result of a vote on assisted dying

Christian Conservative MP Fiona Bruce told him: "We will have crossed the rubicon from killing people being illegal to killing people being legal."

Labour's Barbara Keeley argued the campaign to legalise assisted suicide "reinforces deep-seated beliefs that the lives of disabled people are not worth as much as other people's".

SNP MP Philippa Whitford, a breast cancer surgeon, said: "When the public support this, they are not actually thinking about the last six months of a terminal illness. They are thinking about Alzheimer's.

"They are thinking about motor neurone disease, they are thinking about Parkinson's - none of which this Bill will solve."

David Cameron earlier warned that there were "dangers" in the right to die and made clear his opposition to the Bill.

Speaking in Leeds, the Prime Minister said: "The decision I've come to is I don't see a case for this measure. I don't want to see an expansion of euthanasia in our country. I think there are dangers and so I don't support it."

Care Not Killing campaign director and Christian Peter Saunders said: "They have done this because they have witnessed mission creep in the tiny number of places that have changed the law to allow assisted suicide and euthanasia - countries like Belgium, the Netherlands and the American state of Oregon."

Sarah Wootton, chief executive of Dignity in Dying, said: "The vote only goes to show just how ridiculously out of touch MPs are with the British public on the issue.

"By rejecting the Bill Parliament has in effect decided to condone terminally ill people ending their own lives but refused to provide them the adequate protection they need," she added.

"Suffering will continue as long as MPs turn a blind eye to dying people's wishes. Dying people deserve better."

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