The law forbids assisted dying, despite instances where a patient with an incurable, awful, disease wants to make a rational, considered, decision to have control over their own death. In such cases, a spouse may want to respect their partner’s final wishes, and to act out of love and compassion to assist them. They are forbidden from doing so by the criminal law — an injustice which the Supreme Court has now deemed of “transcendent public importance”.
There is a view that “good cases make bad law”: that assisted dying should remain a criminal offence but that the prosecuting authorities should “turn a blind eye”. That is broadly what happens now; but few law-abiding people want to spend the most difficult phase of their lives worrying about police questioning and criminal prosecution. It is inhumane to all involved.
In expressing these views, Vince Cable is in line with party policy, adopted at the 2012 autumn conference in Brighton and prior to that in 2004.
The 2012 motion said:
Conference reaffirms the policy it adopted in the conference motion Medically Assisted Dying in 2004 in support of legislation providing for medical assistance to die to be available to patients in particular circumstances, subject to rigorous safeguards to prevent abuse.
Conference also recognises the importance of high quality palliative care being available to all who may need it, and of greater support for carers.