1252 The most personal intervention so far came from Baroness Campbell of Surbiton, who suffers from severe spinal muscular atrophy and spoke through a ventilator. Here is a text of what she said:“My Lords, I have fought for autonomy the whole of my life.“I have fought it for myself and I have fought it for others. I do not want this bill.“My Lords, first I must declare a very important interest: this bill is about me. I did not ask for it and do not want it but it is about me nevertheless.“Before anyone disputes this imagine it is already law and that I asked for assistance to die – do your lordships think that I will be refused?“No. You can be sure there will be doctors and lawyers willing to support my right to die. Certainly many would put their energies into that without … helping me to change my mind.“This bill offers no comfort to me, it frightens me because in periods of greatest difficulty I know I might be tempted to use it.“It only adds to the burdens and challenges life holds for me.“But it is not just about me, my story is echoed by the majority of disabled and terminally ill people in Britain today many of whom are outside this House protesting against this bill I urge you to go and talk to them. Many more have written to Your Lordships.“Supporters of this bill argue that there is a hard and fast distinction between terminal illness and disability – I can tell you absolutely there is not.“We the folk this bill claims to serve know that.“The bill purports to offer choice, the option of premature death instead of pain, suffering and disempowerment.“But it is a false choice – it is the burglar who offers to mugs you instead.“That is not choice: pain, suffering and disempowerment are treatable, I have to believe that and it should always be treated. My own experience of progressive deterioration has taught me that there is no situation that cannot be improved.
“My Lords I have spent my life developing ways to prevent people in vulnerable situations from feeling powerless and burdensome. They do get cajoled, they do feel a burden, especially when they are at home with no one to come and assist them to go to the toilet, to have dignity.“I have seen this transformation … those who society once saw as totally dependent become active and valued human beings.“Assisted dying, I’m afraid will bring back outdated beliefs that devalue disabled and terminally ill people and we have tried so hard to get away from that.“Small wonder then if some succumb to those beliefs and see premature [death] as the only answer.“Small wonder then if family, friends, doctors and others see their duty to support that goal. It does appear easier, cheaper and quicker – and it is.
“My Lords is motivated by fear and pity but, as the great words of the greatest French novelist Balzac observed, pity is death to us it makes our weakness weaker still.“Death is seen as a release from pity for both giver and receiver but there are far better ways but there are far better ways of responding … we are no way near there yet.”She went on: “This bill has become a runaway train, all the more frightening because of that.“Please my Lords let us pause, let us find ways to reflect further. The bill is not the answer.”