The Midland MP trying to change the law to give terminally-ill patients the right to die says he would want the opportunity to kill himself if he faced the prospect of a slow and painful death.
In a frank interview, MP Rob Marris told the Post: “I would want it for myself.
“If I were terminally ill with six months to live and I was of sound mind, and it’s going to get a whole lot more painful - and I’m going to go blind and I’m going to go deaf and I’m going to have brain seizures, which can happen say with a brain tumour – I would want to pull the plug before then.
“I don’t want the last three months of my life to be in intense pain, and me not communicating with the world .
“I’m not saying I’d do it. I don’t know. I’ve not been in that position.
“But I would like to be able to have that choice. And that means there is a change of legislation needed, for people to be able to have that choice.”
Mr Marris, the Labour MP for Wolverhampton South West, has a chance to change the law after coming first in the ballot of MPs hoping to present a private members bill to Parliament.
This is one of the few chances a backbench MP has to introduce legislation which has a realistic chance of becoming law, and it means assisted dying, in which a doctor helps a patient take their life in a controlled and painless way, could come to the UK – if MPs choose to vote for it.
Mr Marris’s Assisted Dying Bill will be presented to the Commons on June 24, and debates will begin on September 11.
It is based on legislation championed by former Lord Chancellor Lord Falconer of Thoroton, which would allow doctors to prescribe a lethal dose to terminally-ill patients judged to have six months or less to live and who request it.
Under Mr Marris’s proposals, doctors would only be allowed to provide a lethal cocktail of drugs – not to administer it. The terminally ill patient would have to take the final step themselves.
Mr Marris said: “I feel strongly that people should have the right, without coercion, to make a decision, if they have a terminal illness, to end their own life.
“In terms of having a dignified death, with medical supervision, we need legislation .
“Without that change in legislation, doctors quite rightly do not wish to get involved at all, because it would be a criminal offence.”
Under his proposed law there would be a number of safeguards to ensure assisted death was only legal in specific circumstances.
The patient would have to be of sound mind and they would have to have a terminal illness, which would mean they are expected to die within six months. They would have to sign a declaration to say they had not been coerced, and this would have to be agreed by their own doctor as well as an independent doctor, and approved by a court.
The patient would then have to wait at least 14 days before the death could take place, to ensure they had time to change their mind.
Mr Marris said: “The doctor then comes round to your house and brings the fatal drugs with him or her, and has to be in the house – but not necessarily in the room – when the patient decides yes, I am going to do this.
“And it is the patient themselves who administers the fatal drugs. Not their spouse, not the doctor, not their best friend. It’s got to be done by the person themselves.
“If it’s not done by the person themselves then essentially it’s criminal, because you’d be assisting in a suicide or it would be murder. It would not be protected by this bill. The patient could pull out at any time.”
In most cases the drugs would usually be administered orally, Mr Marris said, which means the patient would swallow them.
If the patient changed their mind, or wasn’t certain they wanted to proceed, then the doctor would leave and take the drugs with them.
The Bill would also only apply to adults, and to people who had been living in the UK for a year, to prevent people coming to the UK specifically to kill themselves.
Mr Marris added: “It is important we have a public debate on this issue. And the law itself at the moment is a mess.”
He said the Director for Public Prosecutions currently had to choose whether prosecution was in the public interest, because it was unclear what the law said. But the decision about whether assisted dying was legal should lie with elected politicians debating and voting in Parliament, he said.
“There are lots of people who for deeply-held religious views, or just their own personal morality, would not go near this.
“They think suicide is wrong.
“I fully understand that. And those individuals would have their choice as well. I personally don’t have their moral objections, and I’m not the only one who doesn’t have moral objections in this regard – who wants to have the choice.”