The lack of support in Parliament for introduction of assisted dying legislation goes against public sentiment on the issue, writes Donald Forbes.

The House of Lords recently debated Lady Meacher's assisted dying bill, the first time it has tackled the issue for six years. Britain is still no closer to legalising assisted dying than before although a majority of people say they support it.

The British people have a better understanding of our changing relationship with life and death than our legislature. More than 70 per cent of them have told YouGov they were in favour of euthanasia compared with one in three MPs which, like Brexit, again puts parliament at odds with the public.

The bill proposed by Meacher, who heads Dying in Dignity, proposes that only terminally ill patients of sound mind with no more than six months to live could ask for help to die. Such a law would be much narrower than in countries like Belgium and Holland which are less restrictive. Sick children have been euthanised in the former.

The Royal College of Physicians and the British Medical Association no longer oppose assisted death. However, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby said the fencing against abuse offered in the bill was not enough. It is true that no law, however scrupulously crafted, will be fool proof. If that were an absolute criterion, it would prevent many laws ever being passed.

Welby told the BBC that the aim should be assisted living, which already exists,. He feared that mistaken diagnoses could leave patients open to "very, very intangible forms of coercion and pressure." If intangibility is the proof, why not just say he's against under all circumstances?

There is no chance of assisted dying becoming law in the UK without the support of the Government and the Commons. However, in the public mind the relationship between life, which is claimed to be sacrosanct, and death, which is sometimes an escape from unbearable survival, has evolved. This may be due, perhaps unconsciously, to abortion although it is a nominally a separate debate. Some people support abortion but oppose assisted dying without seeing any contradiction although every pregnant woman who sees a scan of her womb knows that she's carrying life.

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Pro-abortionists cannot escape the fact, however strenuously they deny it, that it involves the killing of a human being. Abortion involves the denial that life is sacrosanct at one end while opponents of euthanasia insist that it is sacrosanct at the other. They can't both be right.

Secularity means many no longer believe life is a gift from God, as the churches teach, and rather it being merely the result of sexual coupling. With the absence of absolute religious injunction, we are entitled as individuals to preserve our own lives but should not prevent others choosing death as a release from unwanted life.

The debate keeps coming round as a result of highly publicised cases where the courts refuse to allow an assisted end to life sought by handicapped patients who are physically incapable of committing suicide without help. This looks like inhumanity disguised as compassion and will inevitably become untenable here as assisted suicide is adopted by more and more countries.

People who are healthy or young are more likely to fear death – as something that deprives them prematurely of a cherished good – than older people, some of whom may not be ill at all but have minds and bodies in irreversible decline and are tired of life.

There's no sin in being tired of one's life. With God out of the picture, each life belongs exclusively to the person living it to dispose of as he wishes. Nor should people be left with the sole option of committing suicide. The methods are always unpleasant and cannot be guaranteed to succeed.

The Dalai Lama, who is 86, has said that if he is still healthy at 90, he will considered whether or not to choose re-birth. That implies the cup of hemlock, easier to swallow if you believe like Buddhists in re-incarnation. He is said to believe that people become aware of their impending death two years before it actually happens, giving them time to prepare themselves and their families for what is inevitable and, as the Stoic Seneca stated in his letters, death should be welcomed at the end of a completed life.

"If you are mindful of death, it will not come as a surprise, you will not be anxious," the Dalai Lama has said. "You will feel that death is merely like changing clothes. Consequently, at that point you will be able to maintain your calmness of mind."

Meacher's bill was not put to a vote. During the debate she read a message from the former MP Lord Field who is himself dying of an incurable illness and was unable to attend. He said that if he could have been there, he would have supported her bill.

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