Policy and Politics: Question Time - Baroness Greengross ex-Age Concern England

As the former director general of Age Concern England, were you against the assisted dying proposals in 1997?

I hadn't made my mind up. I felt that the subject was taboo and that people didn't talk about it, so I set up a discussion group. It was considered a bit controversial, but people simply weren't getting all the information they needed.

What persuaded you to support the Bill this time round?

At Age Concern I spoke to many elderly people about this and discovered that they are not frightened of death - they are frightened of the dying process. They are worried that they will suffer pain and a loss of dignity, or will lose their mental capacity - this horrifies them.

I believe that people have the right to know what they can expect at the end of their lives and to have some control over what happens to them.

Many people would rather die sooner if it meant avoiding pain.

Isn't there a danger this could put the vulnerable at risk?

Some people have claimed this will somehow demean disabled people, but I disagree - this Bill is not about that. On the contrary - at present an able-bodied person can choose to commit suicide themselves, but a disabled person might be at a disadvantage if he or she is physically unable to do so.

Could the Bill be open to abuse?

I believe it will lead to more openness and transparency, and could actually offer people better protection from abuse than the current system because it would all be monitored very carefully. It would only allow assisted dying in very limited circumstances, in which someone was suffering from indescribable pain and was going to die soon anyway.

Do you think the committee will endorse the Bill?

It would be great if it was passed, and I think it has a good chance, but another benefit is that it has got people talking about the subject.

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