Medical Treatment (Prevention of Euthanasia) Bill — 28 Jan 2000

Joe Benton MP, Bootle voted with the majority (Teller for the Ayes).

The bill sought to prevent intentional killing of a patient by act or omission. It was prompted by the Bland judgement which allowed doctors to withdraw food leading to the death of a patient. Those voting Aye were voting for the bill to move forward to the report stage.

Order for Second Reading read.

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

In previous years, I must admit that I have been one of the last to sign the book for the private Members' ballot. However, last year, quite by accident, I was in the No Lobby when I happened to see the Clerk with the ballot book. I said, "My goodness, you're not open for business yet, are you?", and he said, "Yes, I am." I saw that no one had signed the book, and we exchanged some banter about being able to sign No. 1, which I did. I did not appreciate that that number had as good a chance as any other, and in the event it emerged first when the ballot was held. So that is how winning the ballot is done.

It was a great surprise to me. After the initial excitement and euphoria died down, I had to deal with the mountain of post that all hon. Members who are successful in the ballot receive virtually automatically.

I gave the question of what should be the subject of my Bill a great deal of consideration. I came to the conclusion that I had chanced upon the one opportunity that a Member of Parliament gets to try to introduce to the House of Commons a measure that has very personal importance. I therefore chose this Bill, which deals with a subject on which I have campaigned for a number of years, to which I am committed and in which I believe, heart and soul. That is the way in which the Medical Treatment (Prevention of Euthanasia) Bill came to be born.

The purpose of the Bill is to call a halt to what has become the slide towards the acceptance and practice of euthanasia by making it clear to doctors that they cannot intentionally bring about the death of their patients, by action or by omission. Before I expand on the Bill, perhaps I should explain the context in which the need for it arises.

Food and fluid, administered by mouth or with the assistance of tubes, has always been regarded as a basic human right. Everyone is entitled to food and water, which are basic needs. However, for many years the international euthanasia bodies have promoted the idea of withdrawing assisted feeding from profoundly disabled people as a first step towards achieving euthanasia.

Another aim was to have living wills made legally binding, so that people could state in advance whether they wanted treatment in any given situation. I believe that that too was a first step towards people being allowed to say in advance whether they wanted a lethal injection if they became incapacitated.

In 1992, the British Medical Association produced a report in which the suggestion was made that assisted food and fluid amounted to treatment that could be withdrawn. The following year, assisted food and fluid was first legally defined as treatment by the Law Lords' decision in the case of the Airedale NHS trust against Mr. Anthony Bland. The BMA report was cited by some of the judges in justifying their decision.

The judgment caused such public concern that the House of Lords established the Select Committee on Medical Ethics to consider euthanasia and the treatment

28 Jan 2000 : Column 687 of the sick and dying. Its unanimous report was published in 1994 and opposed euthanasia. It also opposed the concept that living wills could be legally binding, and it was against enshrining the Bland judgment in statute.

Question put, That the Question be now put:--

The House divided: Ayes 113, Noes 2.

Historical Hansard | Online Hansard |

Party Summary

Votes by party, red entries are votes against the majority for that party.

What is Tell? '+1 tell' means that in addition one member of that party was a teller for that division lobby.

What are Boths? An MP can vote both aye and no in the same division. The boths page explains this.

What is Turnout? This is measured against the total membership of the party at the time of the vote.

PartyMajority (Aye)Minority (No)BothTurnout
Con55 0 (+1 tell)034.8%
DUP1 0050.0%
Independent2 00100.0%
Lab41 (+1 tell) 0 (+1 tell)010.3%
LDem6 1117.4%
PC1 0033.3%
SDLP1 0033.3%
UKUP1 00100.0%
UUP4 (+1 tell) 0050.0%
Total:112 1118.3%

Rebel Voters - sorted by party

MPs for which their vote in this division differed from the majority vote of their party. You can see all votes in this division, or every eligible MP who could have voted in this division

Sort by: Name | Constituency | Party | Vote

Crispin BluntReigateCon (front bench)tellno
Joe AshtonBassetlawLabtellno
Archy KirkwoodRoxburgh and BerwickshireLDemno
Evan HarrisOxford West and AbingdonLDemboth

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