Kit Malthouse MP: The true cost of outsourcing death to Dignitas

Posted On: 
13th November 2017

Tory MP Kit Malthouse encourages his colleagues to read Dignity in Dying’s new report – The True Cost: How the UK outsources death to Dignitas – launched today, and understand what we, as a society, are turning a blind eye to. 

Credit: 
PA

I can’t remember the first time I heard the name Dignitas but, like millions of people, what it represents is now well known to me. The vast majority of the British public understand the courage of those seeking a dignified death, and the compassion needed by their loved ones.

The difficulty and expense faced by those desperate people who choose to travel to Switzerland is, however, less well understood. So too is the horror for those who can’t get there.

It wasn’t long after I was elected as an MP that one of my constituents was assisted to die at Eternal Spirit, another Swiss right to-die organisation. I only learned of this afterwards when her partner came to see me, passionate in his desire to help others through the practical difficulties of the process. I can only guess how many more constituents may have made that terrible journey, or how many have investigated it but were unable to travel.

Tragically it’s also impossible to know how many other dying people in my constituency have taken their own lives at home, traumatically, without the support of their doctors. It is certain that many more have suffered the misery of an agonising and protracted death, as happened to a member of my own family, despite the very best end-of-life care that our country already offers. Nor can we fully understand the distress and sorrow of the many partners who, in the face of their loved ones’ torment at the end of life, feel they have no humane option but to accede to the request to help end their suffering.

With no other safe option, many people in this country experience unimaginable suffering at the end of their lives. The findings of this

report are shocking, but they offer only a glimpse of what is a deep well of anguish.

Our outdated laws discriminate between rich and poor, discourage proper conversations between patients and their doctors, criminalise grieving relatives who spend time with their loved ones in their dying moments and oblige people to end their lives before they are ready. Worst of all, while they are predicated on preserving the sanctity of life, they show no mercy to those facing an agonising death, and deny free will to those whose lives and deaths depend upon it. 

One day we will look back in disbelief at how long it took Parliament to realise this.

I hope my colleagues will read Dignity in Dying’s new report – The True Cost: How the UK outsources death to Dignitas – launched today, and understand what we, as a society, are turning a blind eye to. Acting in the best interests of our constituents, we must ask whether these terrible experiences can truly be justified by a false dichotomy between dominion over our lives and protection of the vulnerable, a premise long disproved. With the USA, Canada, Australia and several European countries all having grasped the nettle of assisted dying, our lack of leadership in the face of profound suffering will be a black mark against our humanity in years to come.

The evidence that we need change is overwhelming. It’s time that the UK stopped outsourcing its compassion to Switzerland and began listening to dying people who want and need the most basic choice they will ever face.

Kit Malthouse MP Chair, Choice at the End of Life All-Party Parliamentary Group