MP’s plea for law change after his father’s suicide

editorial image
0
Have your say

SHEFFIELD Central MP Paul Blomfield told this week how his father committed suicide after being diagnosed with lung cancer .

The Labour MP said his father took his own life last July at the age of 87, by filling his garage with exhaust fumes. His dad had watched many friends suffer for months before dying and did not want to suffer the indignity of being unable to look after himself.

Mr Blomfield said he was sure his father would not have killed himself if the law was changed so his relatives could have assisted his suicide, free from the fear of prosecution.

In a moving speech to the House of Commons, he said his former RAF pilot father Henry – known as Harry – ‘couldn’t face the indignity of that lingering, degrading death’.

He admitted his own feelings were still ‘raw’ as he told his colleagues the law needed to be changed.

“I am sure he made up his mind soon after receiving a terminal diagnosis for lung cancer.

“But he still died prematurely and I am sure what drove him to end his life when he did was the fear that, if he didn’t end his life when he could, he would lose the opportunity to act at all.

“If the law had made it possible he could, and I am sure he would, have shared his plans and would have been able to say goodbye.

“He would have been able to die with his family around him – not alone in a carbon monoxide-filled garage. He, and many more like him, deserve better.”

One month after his father’s death, the MP was diagnosed with a benign brain tumour, for which he underwent surgery at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital in Sheffield. He has since made a full recovery.

He spoke during a debate on whether assisted suicide should be legalised.

MPs were told a survey revealed 82% of people support guidelines issued by the Director of Public Prosecutions, which said those with good motives who helped a loved one to end their life should not be pursued by the law.

“I welcome the DPP’s guidance but I feel ultimately we will need to go further,” said Mr Blomfield.

“Of course there must be safeguards, and constructing them robustly will be difficult, but the challenge of the task shouldn’t put us off the need to do it.

“This issue will not go away. More and more people will be facing these decisions and will be pressing at the boundaries of the law.

“It is not a question, I think, of whether we should go further and legalise assisted dying, but when – and the longer it takes us to act, the more needless suffering we will have consented to.”

The Commons heard over 180 British citizens have travelled to Switzerland to end their lives there.