Lord Falconer's Assisted Dying Bill impeded by endless amendments

House Of Lords

High profile members of the House of Lords have slowed the progress of the Assisted Dying Bill, depriving those in need of much desired clarity.

Lord Falconer's controversial Assisted Dying Bill has been slowed in its progress through the House of Lords by attracting 175 amendments.

Each amendment submitted to the Bill must be considered and debated. This must be done before it can be passed to the House of Commons and potentially made law.

Originally tabled in July 2014, the proposal states that it should give mentally competent, terminally ill adults the right to request medication from their doctor which would end their lives. It will also provided much needed clarity to a situation which is currently difficult to navigate.

Currently, it is an offence under the Suicide Act 1961 to encourage or assist a suicide, or suicide attempt in England and Wales. The Commission on Assisted Dying stated in 2012 that there was a "strong case" to bring about a change in the law for terminally ill people in England and Wales. 

Although the Bill is said to have the support of 73% of adults in England and Wales, it has been hotly debated within Parliament. Those who have added amendments include Lady Butler-Sloss, the Bishop of Bristol, and right-to-life campaigner Lord Alton.

Lord Pannick, who has also tabled a proposed change, believes that his suggestions would reassure opponents, introducing the safeguard that a judge must make the ruling that the person involved had made a clear, conscious decision.

However, this may raise questions over how long this could take, and what a ruling to the contrary could mean for them and their family.

The Bill has attracted further attention in recent weeks, when right-to-die campaigner, Jean Davies, starved herself to death. She died on 1st October, stating that she felt starvation was the only way she could exercise her right to die. She had previously said that feared taking an overdose in case it was not effective.

Author Terry Pratchett, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2007, has also been vocal in his belief that people should be able to die when their mind is “level, realistic, stoic, pragmatic and sharp”.

Although there is still the chance that the Assisted Dying Bill could still be swallowed up by endless amendments and debates over its future, there is still hope that it will soon progress through the committee stage, coming one step closer to being made law and giving those who need it most the clarity they so crave.