MP Anna Soubry was appointed a health minister in a reshuffle earlier this week and she is already drawing the ire of pro-life groups with her comments promoting assisted suicide.
Soubry told the Times it was “ridiculous and appalling” that Britons had to “go abroad to end their life.” She said she opposes euthanasia but claimed “you have a right to kill yourself.”
“I think it’s ridiculous and appalling that people have to go abroad to end their life instead of being able to end their life at home,” she said. “You can’t say to a doctor or a nurse, ‘Kill this person’ but…. you have a right to kill yourself. The rules that we have about who we don’t prosecute allow things to happen but there’s a good argument that we should be a bit more honest about it.”
The Department of Health is reported to have said that Mrs Soubry’s comments, and similar comments by Norman Lamb MP, another health minister, were personal views not government policy, and that the issue of assisted suicide was not one for the Department of Health. The Department of Justice is reported to have said that the government has no plans to change the law and that assisted suicide law reform was a matter for Parliament.
SPUC Pro-Life, a leading anti-assisted suicide group, has described as “disingenuous” both the Government and Soubry.
Paul Tully, SPUC Pro-Life’s general secretary, commented: “The Government’s statements are disingenuous and not credible. Governments often claim that they have no plan to change law – but very soon those same governments make or otherwise back such a plan. It is often left unclear whether responses by ministers in the Houses of Parliament are the government’s position or their own opinion.”
“Also, when (for example) the Chancellor of the Exchequer makes comments about Britain’s economy in newspaper interviews, no one believes that his comments are his personal opinions only, with no influence on government policy. Assisted suicide is a health issue and Department of Health ministers will have influence alongside Justice ministers and others on the government’s approach to new legislation, such as that proposed by Lord Falconer,” he added.
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Tully continued: “Anna Soubry has also been disingenuous. Before the general election, she failed to respond to constituents wanting to know where she stood on assisted suicide and other pro-life issues. Now that she has been elected to Parliament and appointed as a health minister, she feels free to tell a national newspaper instead. The duplicity thus shown by Mrs Soubry to her constituents does not inspire trust in the government’s disclaimers. We fear strongly that she will work behind the scenes to weaken legal protections for disabled people.
“Suicide-prevention is the humane response to suicidal people – and it’s the usual response across the NHS, the justice system, education and so on. But when a person with a disability or degenerative condition is suicidal, MPs, lawyers and media-pundits start talking about the ‘right to die'”, concluded Mr Tully.