More than 100 peers have signed up to speak in a House of Lords debate today over whether to legalise assisted suicide.
The proposal would allow doctors to prescribe a lethal dose to terminally ill patients judged to have less than six months to live.
The Assisted Dying bill, tabled by former Labour Chancellor Lord Falconer, will be decided by a free vote in Parliament.
The topic has been heavily debated, with opinion polls suggesting the majority of the British public are in favour of introducing the law.
But prime minister, David Cameron, has said he is ‘not convinced’ by the bill and has spoken of his concern that if passed ‘people might be pushed into things that they don’t actually want for themselves’.
Elderly patients could feel 'threatened by hospital'
TV doctor Lord Robert Winston has today spoke out about concerns over a bill to legalise assisted suicide.
The fertility expert is one of 130 peers set to take part in a 10 hour debate into the bill at the House of Lords today.
"I'll listen to the arguments very carefully but I'm concerned that you cannot legislate against an attitude of mind and I think that's a very difficult issue,” he said ahead of the debate tabled by Lord Falconer.
“Whilst I accept the people who are proposing this bill will do everything to make sure legally that this is watertight, I think the real concern I have is whether you'd corrupt the views of people who are caring for people who are in a dangerous or debilitated state, particularly when they're old and confused.”
Lord Winston, who was made a life peer in 1995 as Baron of Hammersmith, added that he hasn’t ‘made up his mind yet’ but will be ‘listening to the debate very carefully.
‘Assisted death will work in the UK’
Dignity in Dying have been campaigning in support of the bill.
Spokeswoman Jo Cartwright said today that her organisation is convinced assisted death will work in the UK.
She said: “We want to give people control and choice over the end of their life and what that end of life will look like.”
House of Lords vote 'unpredictable'
The Evening Standard Political Correspondent, Joe Watts, said even if the Bill makes it through today’s process, there are still several more stages to go before it would be ratified, most notably a vote in the House of Commons.
He also points out that this vote is far less predictable than those we are used to seeing in Parliament, as this is a matter of 'personal conscience', where MPs will vote because of their individual beliefs and not be influenced by party policy.
‘It would be a little easier to know it happened in the way he wanted’
The son of a terminally ill man has said making assisted suicide legal would help his father die ‘in the way he wanted’.
Mark Chamberlain is backing calls for a new legislation which would allow terminally ill patients in England and Wales to get help to end their lives.
He said: “It would make life a little bit easier for us all to know that it was happening in the way he wanted and to know there are no repercussions legally.”
Mark’s father was diagnosed with motor neurone disease four years ago.