1 Lord Krebs debates involving the Ministry of Justice

Fri 22nd Oct 2021
Assisted Dying Bill [HL]
Lords Chamber

2nd reading & 2nd reading

Assisted Dying Bill [HL]

Lord Krebs Excerpts
2nd reading
Friday 22nd October 2021

(2 years, 8 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Krebs Portrait Lord Krebs (CB)
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My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lady Meacher for bringing forward this Bill, which I strongly support. Like other noble Lords, I have received dozens and dozens of letters and emails, both for and against the Bill, but, as the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, said, the ones that tell moving stories about close relatives or friends are the most compelling—stories are more compelling than statistics. It boils down to these stories, because there are no definitive arguments on either side. Whichever lens you view it through—a medical, a legal, a moral or a religious lens—you can find passionate advocates both for and against assisted dying. But there is one important guiding principle. In his excellent book Being Mortal, Atul Gawande’s central message is that, near the end of life, people value autonomy over almost everything else. This Bill would, with appropriate safeguards, give people that autonomy.

I will end with my personal story that has shaped my thinking: the death of my father 40 years ago. His life had been extraordinarily challenging by comparison with the cushioned life of baby boomers such as me. In 1918, he left school early to serve in the German army in World War I. As a medical student, he lived through the hyperinflation of the 1920s in Germany. When Hitler came to power, he was sacked from his job as a doctor and started afresh as a refugee in England at the age of 33 with virtually nothing. He went on to win a Nobel Prize for uncovering the mechanism by which every cell in our body generates the energy that is the fire of life. In spite of all these setbacks, he wrote in his autobiography that he had been extraordinarily lucky. I never heard him complain about the many adversities that he had faced, except once. When he was on his death bed, in pain and losing his dignity and autonomy, the last thing he said to me was: “John, if you ever get to this situation, I hope there will be a more humane way of treating people.” This Bill gives us the more humane way.