Conference votes for Assisted Dying law
On Saturday 18th September, at Autumn Conference, party members voted by a huge majority to adopt a new policy on assisted dying law.
The new policy calls for improved end of life care, support for unpaid carers, and legislation to allow medical assistance for terminally ill people who wish to end their lives at a time and manner of their choosing.
The policy limits this to people who have six or fewer months to live and have "signed a declaration that they have a voluntary, clear, settled and informed wish to end their life".
This would be subject to rigorous safeguards that have been set out in the Assisted Dying Bill now working its way through the House of Lords.
It replaces and brings up to date the policy that was originally put forward by HSLD and adopted by Conference in Autumn 2012.
The policy calls on the government to make time available for both Houses of Parliament to consider the Assisted Dying Bill, but allows Liberal Democrat MPs and peers to vote according to their consciences.
Significantly, the motion was proposed by leading Westminster MP Christine Jardine, who is also Vice-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Assisted Dying, and was closed by Liam McArthur MSP, the party's spokesperson for Justice in the Scottish Parliament.
HSLD Chair Toby Keynes also spoke in support of the motion.
During the debate, the major concern was raised that the policy commits the party to specific safeguards that might be too technically demanding, making it impossible for people who genuinely meet the criteria to go through the processes. Conference actually voted by a majority of 161 to 130 to suspend standing orders so as to allow the relevant lines to be considered separately. However, this effort failed because a two thirds majority is required for a suspension of standing orders.
The motion was carried by an overwhelming majority of 279 to 63, and is now party policy.
As well as setting party policy, the votes send a clear signal to our parliamentarians that party members support assisted dying reform with safeguards, but not necessarily these specific safeguards.
You can watch the debate at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QAciwziDYKg&t=12530s, starting at 3:07:00.
The new policy is at https://www.libdems.org.uk/f15-end-of-life-care.