The assisted dying debate shouldn’t be driven by the unelected

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July 12, 2014 by Paul Goldsmith


Here’s an interesting comment on how our democracy today works. See if you can spot the problem with this picture. An unelected member of the judiciary suggested that at an unelected member of the House of Lords might want push forward a bill that would make assisted dying legal.

In June, the UK Supreme Court turned down the final appeal by the late Tony Nicklinson, along with Debbie Purdy and James Lamb to given the right to die, and in particular to make sure that anyone who assists them in helping them out of their misery isn’t charged with murder. The whole point of the UK Supreme Court, when it was created by New a Labour, was to take the law lords out of politics. Yet as he gave the summing up of how the current law didn’t give the judges much choice, Lord Neuberger, the President of the Supreme Court suggested quite openly that he would appreciate some help from our legislators when he said “let us hope that our timid lawmakers will rise to the challenge”.

Thus Neuberger, having decided it was ok to indicate his own views so openly, would have been satisfied that this month Lord Charlie Falconer’s Assisted Dying Bill receives it’s second reading, which is the first big hurdle on the way to becoming law.

This blog is not about the rights and wrongs of assisted dying. There are arguments for and against it and my opinions on it don’t matter. This blog is to question the process by which direct power of life and death over an individual could be passed to state employees – doctors and nurses. In particular, that it is being pushed so hard by someone who has great influence yet has never been elected to any position in his life.

Lord Falconer was elevated to the peerage having been a flat mate of Tony Blair. He was a successful barrister but never adopted as a prospective Labour MP because he refused to take his children out of private school. In 1997 he was made a peer, then named solicitor-general, minister for the Millienium Dome, housing, Home Office, Lord Chancellor and Justice secretary. He is now close to Ed Miliband – heading the “transition team” which is preparing for a Downing Street, will take a top role in coalition negotiations and the appointment in ministers. Falconer was in the room when politicians and the Hacked Off pressure group drew up the legislation for curbing newspapers.

Skilled political operator that he is, should someone who had only ever advanced through patronage have the constitutional right to promulgate his beliefs on such a profound moral issue? Should someone who has only ever been appointed, never elected, be granted such access to the levers of power that he can promote his own views through the legislative process.

Whatever happens with this assisted dying debate, and apparently David Cameron is going to allow MPs a ‘free vote’ on the issue, it is very important that it is Cameron, who is an elected MP, an elected political party leader, and an elected a Prime Minister, who leads on this issue, not someone who is none of those. People say there are no votes in being the person who allowed assisted dying to happen. This is not about votes, this is about peoples’ lives, and we elect representatives to have the courage to decide on our behalf.

I welcome any comments - whether you agree with me or not!

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