HL Deb 28 November 1950 vol 169 cc552-98

4.30 p.m.

LORD CHORLEY rose to call attention to the need for legalising voluntary euthanasia; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, in 1936, the late Lord Ponsonby of Shulebrede introduced the Voluntary Euthanasia Legalisation Bill into your Lordships' House and, after an interesting discussion, a Second Reading was refused. Since that time a good deal of water has flowed under the bridges and a considerable volume of opinion has developed in favour of what is sometimes called "mercy killing"—that is, provided reasonably adequate safeguards can be brought into use in order to prevent abuse. The object of the Motion with which I am asking your Lordships to agree this afternoon is to bring the matter once more into the light of discussion, in the hope that the Government will be able to see their way to accept, at any rate, the principle which lies behind the Motion, and will initiate the inquiries which are needed for the solution of the administrative difficulties pointed out by Lord Gage who answered for the Government in 1936, so that in due course the necessary legislation can be introduced. The object of such legislation is to provide a man who is suffering from an illness involving severe pain, the illness being incurable and of a fatal character, with a merciful release from his suffering.

It is obvious that stringent safeguards are necessary. I personally sec no insuperable difficulty in obtaining stringent safeguards. The safeguards proposed in the Bill which was before your Lordships' House in 1936 were of a very comprehensive character. I should perhaps draw your Lordships' attention to some of them, and to the definition of the term "euthanasia" which has been used for want of a better term. It is a rather awkward expression but it is very difficult to find anything more satisfactory. It was described in the Bill as the termination of life by painless means for the purpose of avoiding unnecessary suffering.

The conditions upon which such euthanasia may be granted to a sufferer are; that he must be not less than twenty-one years of age; must be of sound mind; must be suffering from illness involving severe pain and of an incurable and fatal character; and that in order to obtain the euthanasia he must make application in writing on a form which was set out in the Schedule to the Bill. He had to sign the application for himself in the presence of two witnesses. He had to have the application supported by two medical certificates, one from his own doctor who had been looking after him during his illness, and the other from a medical practitioner who had special qualifications for dealing with cases of this kind.

That application had to be made to a referee who was appointed by the Minister of Health for the purpose of dealing with applications of this kind, and the referee had to go personally to see the sufferer in order to make quite sure that the conditions prescribed in the Bill had been fulfilled and that the patient fully understood the nature and purpose of the application. Then, having satisfied himself in that way, the referee made the necessary order and the euthanasia would be administered in the presence of an official witness by a medical practitioner from a special panel maintained for the purpose. I think you Will agree that those are very stringent safeguards. But, of course, we are not in any way tied to the provisions of that Bill, and if noble Lords have suggestions for improvement, obviously they will be very welcome. Indeed, those provisions have been attacked in many quarters as being too stringent, and even when the Bill was before your Lordships' House I think one or two speakers tended to take that sort of view of them.

Although some classical philosophers like Epictetus and Seneca affirmed the right of a man who was suffering intense pain from an incurable illness to take his own life, so far as I am aware euthanasia, in the sense of a community-sanctioned taking of life, was first advocated by Sir Thomas More in the pages of that famous book, Utopia. I should like to read just a short passage from Utopia. He has been dealing with diseases and illnesses, and he says: If the disease be not only incurable, but also full of continual pain and anguish; then the priests and magistrates exhort the man, seeing he is not able to do any duty of life, and by over-living his own life is noisome and irksome to others and grievous to himself; that he will determine with himself no longer to cherish that pestilent and painful disease. And seeing that his life is to him but a torment, that he will not be unwilling to die … but either despatch himself out of that painful life as out of a prison, or rack of torment, or else suffer himself to be rid of it by other. And in so doing they tell him that he shall do wisely, seeing, by his death … he shall end his pain. And because in that act he shall follow the counsel of the priests, that is to say of the interpreters of God's will and pleasure, they show him that he shall do like a Godly and virtuous man … but they cause none such to die against his will, believing this to be an honourable death.

My Lords, I think no one could listen to those words without feeling that the great Sir Thomas More was moved by tremendous compassion for the sufferings which he had evidently seen around him. He was one of the outstanding English-men at a time of great men. He was one of the most devout men of a time when not all great men were devout. As your Lordships will remember, he was also a most distinguished occupant of the Woolsack upon which the noble and learned Viscount sits this afternoon. As a humble member of the same profession, I feel that I am following in his steps in moving this Motion in your Lordships' House, and I hope also that the noble and learned Viscount will feel moved to follow in Sir Thomas More's steps. In recent times a similar feeling of compassion for the sufferings of people in the last stages of illness has moved eminent members of the medical profession to found The Voluntary Euthanasia Legalisation Society, of which the first President was the late Lord Moynihan, one of the most eminent surgeons of the day, and a Society of which I have the honour to be a Vice-President. That Society has grown in strength over the years under the fostering guidance of its Honorary Secretary, Dr. Millard, who is the medical officer of health at Leicester.

As we are all aware, the medical profession has succeeded in a large degree in assuaging the sufferings of people who are afflicted with these illnesses. Indeed, I think we should all agree that one of the outstanding triumphs of that great profession has been the way in which it has used narcotic drugs and the discoveries made over the last century, to alleviate an enormous amount of misery. It is not possible for doctors to take this beyond a certain point, and particularly in the type of case where an illness has lasted a long time and the patient has developed a tolerance of morphia which is still the best drug and the one most used. He may be able to take a dose as much as ten times what is normal, and still be unable to lose consciousness. It is a very terrible state of affairs when that point is reached. And how terrible such suffering may be can be realised, I think, only by those who have been brought up against it by personal contact. The Society receives hundreds of letters from people saying that if only the opponents of voluntary euthanasia could be with them to see what is happening they would withdraw their opposition.

I do not wish to harrow the feelings of your Lordships by describing a number of concrete cases, but, with your Lordships' permission, I should like to give one reminiscence from my own boyhood days. A friend of our own family was stricken with cancer which lasted a long time, and she reached the stage of this tolerance being established. Morphia was no longer effective to dull her pain. My mother used to go and sit with her, and I remember her once coming back and saying that it ought to be possible to put our friend out of her misery. That made a great impression upon my mind. When I was asked to become a Vice-President of the Society it was really, I think, because of the recollection of that case more than anything else that I agreed to do so. In such cases it is not only a question of physical pain but also of the mental anguish which the patient endures; he feels that he is, himself, disintegrating under the prolonged agony. And not only has he that horrible feeling that his own personality is disintegrating, but he has the deep distress which is caused because a loved wife or daughter who is looking after him is becoming worn out, is having her life shortened, or, in the case of the daughter, possibly is giving up marriage in order to look after him. Things of that sort bring with them mental anguish which is even more intolerable than the physical.

It is one of the ironies of this matter that if an animal is suffering pain in this way, it is against the law not to put it out of its misery; but to put a fellow human being who is suffering from the same sort of pain out of his misery is one of the most heinous offences known to the Law. A man who sees his horse or his dog injured in the field and suffering great pain is, by Law, obliged to put that suffering to an end. But if his wife is suffering terrible pain he has no recourse but to grin and bear it, unless, of course, he is prepared to run the risk of prosecution for murder. And, as your Lordships have seen, on occasions people do commit what is technically murder and are prosecuted in courts of law. From time to time, sympathetic judges have said that in their view the law ought to be altered in order to enable voluntary euthanasia to be applied. The present Lord Chief Justice, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Goddard, when he was a puisne Judge of the King's Bench, tried a case in which, according to the report of Lord Ponsonby's speech—it is in HANSARD, Volume 103, column 471-a wretched woman was prosecuted for killing her mother who was suffering from general paralysis of the insane. The judge spoke of the possibility of a change in the law, so "that the passing of a person afflicted with an incurable disease, either in mind or body, might be expedited." He said that, of course, there must be rigorous safeguards.

And it is not only sympathetic Judges, but people in every walk of society— among them many distinguished men—who have given their support to the Voluntary Euthanasia Legalisation Society. The proposals have received widespread support from people in every rank of life. The President of the Society is a member of your Lordships' House and he is going to speak on my Motion. He is the noble Lord, Lord Denman. I think that it is true that no fewer than seven of the Vice-Presidents are members of your Lordships' House. The Society has published a pamphlet of twenty-four pages listing distinguished men in all walks of life who give it their support. I am not proposing to read that list to your Lordships. It is a very impressive list, but Heaven forbid that I should take you through all those pages! I should like, however, to refer to a few of the medical supporters, because we are going to listen this afternoon to speeches from a number of medical men who are members of your Lordships' House. I am not sure that all of them, at any rate, are my allies, but I may tell your Lordships that the medical supporters of the Society form much the largest number coming from any one profession or business. There are no fewer than four pages filled with their names which total over 200. While it would be invidious of me to pick-out individual men of distinction—and the names of many most distinguished men are to be found there—I should like to refer to some of those who have passed away. I have mentioned the late Lord Moynihan, and amongst others were Sir Arbuthnot Lane, Sir Walter Langdon Brown, Sir H. Rolleston, Sir James Purves Stewart, Sir Pendrill Varriere Jones and Sir Bruce Bruce Porter. All these have been household names known to everyone in the country.

When the 1936 Bill was before your Lordships' House, among the medical members who spoke was the late Lord Dawson of Perm, and the noble Lord, Lord Horder, whom I am very glad to see in his place this afternoon. Lord Horder spoke against the Bill on that occasion; I hope he may have seen fit to repent in the interval. Unfortunately I have no reason to believe that he is now on the side of the righteous. I will not refer to the speech which he made on the occasion I have mentioned, as he is here to give his own views to-day. The speech of Lord Dawson of Penn was really a very eloquent plea for voluntary euthanasia, though he did not actually vote for the Bill—in fact he voted against it. What I think worried him was that the safeguards proposed were too stringent. I should like to draw your Lordships attention to what seems to me to be one of the most significant passages in his speech. He gave a concrete case which was evidently one that had come within his own experience as a medical man. This is what he said: A woman has endured a disease with incomparable bravery for nine years, has pursued her calling and directed and sustained her home. At long last, by tile extension of the disease and diminishing strength, she is crushed by pain and complete disability. She besought peace and kindly death, and called to witness how hard she had fought. Is submerging of her sufferings to be denied her because her life might be shortened by two or three months? That can only be decided by her doctors, who know the thoughts and feelings of the patient and the realities of her stale. This is something which belongs to the wisdom and conscience of the medical profession and not to the realm of law.

It seems to me that he was proposing to leave it to the discretion of the doctors to take a decision of that kind.


My Lords, is the noble Lord implying that Lord Dawson of Penn suggested that a doctor should, in certain conditions, give a lethal dose of a narcotic or other drug to a patient? I have a copy of Hansard containing the report of Lord Dawson's speech in my hand.


I leave it to your Lordships to judge from what he actually said. Whether or not that was what he intended to mean, of course, it is not within the discretion of doctors to take a decision of that kind, because the law does not permit them to do so. Whether fortunately or unfortunately, that is clear. Of course, many people hold the view that doctors, moved by the bowels of compassion, do take the law into their own hands. I discussed this once with an eminent young doctor who told me there was probably not a doctor in the country who had not at one stage in his career helped a patient on his way. Obviously that is an exaggeration, because many doctors, even if they did not respect the law, have religious scruples about doing anything of the sort. Surely it is altogether wrong that the wretched patient's chance of escape from his sufferings should have to depend on the accident of who is his doctor. Is it not equally wrong that a civilised society should place the burden of such an intolerable decision upon the shoulders of an individual doctor?

Those are some of the main arguments in favour of this Motion. I should like to finish my remarks by dealing with some of the arguments which have been put upon the other side. For the most part, these arguments fall under two main heads. There are those who say that the safeguards suggested are not sufficient. I have dealt with that matter. I think, and if noble Lords will indicate in what way the safeguards are not adequate, I will do my best to deal with their point of view at the end. Another objection is that the Bill does not go far enough, because it applies only to adults and does not apply to children who come into the world deaf, dumb and crippled, and who have a much better case than those for whom the Bill provides. That may be so, but we must go step by step. Obviously, what we have in mind in our Society is that it is only a person who is able to come to a decision for himself who should be granted this method of leaving his life.

The most formidable objection has been that which has come from the Churches. I say "most formidable" because it is founded on grounds of religious conscience, and with that, of course, we all have great sympathy. The Churches say that it is only for the Lord to take away the life which He has given; and as a general proposition I think almost everybody will assent to that. But, as to every rule, there are exceptions. Almost every opponent of the abolition of capital punishment would agree that as a last resort the community has the right to take away the life of one of its citizens, and the Churches have never dissented from this point of view. Indeed, the Bishops have frequently been among the vocal opponents of proposals to abolish capital punishment. What I think is of infinitely greater value than life, which, after all, we share with the animals, is the personality of the individual human being. It seems to me that perhaps one of the greatest contributions which Christianity has made to the progress of civilisation has been the emphasis it has placed on the sacredness of personality. Suffering may, and often does, purge and strengthen and even sweeten the character; but when it is intense suffering protracted over many years, and when narcotic drugs have been administered over years in order to deaden it, it is an exceptional case in which the personality is not destroyed. The whole personality which a man's friends loved ceases to exist except in their memories. It is our contention that a man ought to be free to maintain his personality against the pain-wracked and often drug-sodden body by freeing himself from it.

I am glad to say that more and more ministers of religion are coming into this movement. I think there are over sixty ministers of the Church of England and of the Nonconformist Churches who are supporters or subscribers to the Society, and perhaps the most moving argument which has been put on the ethical aspects of voluntary euthanasia is that which the Dean of St. Paul's delivered as recently as May last at the annual general meeting of the Society. If any of your Lordships have not seen it and would like to do so, I would gladly enable them to get a copy.

Undoubtedly there will always be people opposed to voluntary euthanasia on religious grounds, and when this Bill is on the Statute Book, as sooner or later it will be, they will not take advantage of it. We shall admire and respect their courage and the conviction of their conscience. There are always minorities who on conscientious grounds feel that this or that aspect of the law is wrong. There are many people who object to divorce on grounds of conscience and do not take advantage of the divorce laws for that reason. But the time has now gone by when those people were able to prevent other members of the community from obtaining release in that way. Indeed, their right to do so has been abandoned by the Churches themselves, as the most reverend Primate the Lord Archbishop of York frankly admitted in a speech which he made last week in the debate in your Lordships' House on divorce laws. The most reverend Primate is going to speak this afternoon. I hope he will agree that logically there is, in this regard, no difference between voluntary euthanasia and divorce. I hope I have said enough about the matter to commend this Motion to your Lordships, and I beg to move for Papers.

4.59 p.m.


My Lords, there is a long list of speakers who wish to address you this afternoon and I intervene only for a few moments to reinforce, if I can do so. the case which has been so ably made by my noble friend Lord Chorley in favour of voluntary euthanasia. I am aware of the strong objection that exists in this House, and outside it, against these proposals, but I think it is also true to say that there is a growing force of public opinion in our favour. As my noble friend has mentioned, there are representatives of the Churches, the medical profession, the law, the fighting services— indeed, of almost every profession—in the list of supporters of the Society to which I belong. Perhaps I should add that there are also members of the Government and From Opposition Benches on the list.

I should like to refer for a moment to the debate which took place in your Lordships' House some fourteen years ago on Lord Ponsonby's Bill, when the late Lord Dawson of Penn made a most important speech. When the debate was over I got into conversation with Lord Dawson and, discussing the Bill, he said: "This Bill that you advocate is really unnecessary, because we already do what you seek to do under the proposals in the Bill" —and he had hinted at something of the kind in the speech that he made to your Lord-ships. As to that, I would say only that while it may be possible for an eminent physician like the late Lord Dawson of Penn to do as he likes in a matter of this kind, it is a different thing for the ordinary general practitioner, who has to take the risk of prosecution, and possibly of professional ruin.

I believe that that is borne out by letters received by the Dean of St. Paul's after the speech he made at the annual meeting of the Society to which Lord Chorley has referred. Dr. Matthews received a great many letters, and I would venture to quote from two of them: The first letter says: We had the bitter experience of seeing our mother operated on for cancer, no cure, then slowly dying until death came as a really happy release. The surgeon told us immediately after the operation that there was no hope and that nothing remained for her. and us, but the misery of approaching, inevitable death. To my query: 'Why didn't you let her die in the operation?.' as he so easily might have done, he replied there was the reputation of the nursing home, and his own, to be considered. I quote from another letter, which says: I have watched helpless while one I loved suffered unto death and I longed dearly that she could have 'ceased upon the midnight with no pain.' Some day that for which you plead will come and people will wonder why it waited so long. These cases and many others are caused by that terrible disease, cancer. In spite of all the research that is going on, I believe it is true to say that cancer is still on the increase to-day. I have some figures here, which I believe to be correct, showing that in 1938, two years after Lord Ponsonby's Bill, deaths from cancer were nearly 67,000, and that in 1948 they had risen to over 79,000. Only in a small proportion of these cases could the pro-vision of voluntary euthanasia be suitably invoked, but, even so, how much human suffering might be spared! I am glad to support the Motion moved by my noble friend.

5.4 p.m.


My Lords, it is with a great reluctance that I speak on this subject, because I so fully appreciate what is felt by those who are supporting this particular policy. I have visited probably as many people dying from an incurable disease as anyone in this House, with the exception, of course, of the medical profession. I know how often I have felt that one could only hope and pray that death might come speedily. So it is not through any lack of sympathy that I find myself in opposition to the policy which has been urged by the two noble Lords who have spoken. I am taking merely the same line as was taken in the previous debate—I think it was in 1936-by the Archbishop of Canterbury of that time. For reasons both religious and social I find myself in opposition. In one way I come closer to the noble Lord than he might expect, and so did 1he Archbishop of Canterbury of that lime. I recognise that a doctor is often right in deciding that in some illness a point has to be reached when the alleviation of pain is of greater importance than the prolonging of dying.

Reference has already been made to the speech of the late Lord Dawson of Penn. That speech impressed me greatly. He said that the medical profession in the past used to lay all the emphasis on pro-longing life, but that increasingly in recent years the emphasis had been laid on the alleviation of pain. I cannot, therefore, criticise the physician who, with a full sense of responsibility, uses means for the alleviation of pain, even if by so doing the result is the shortening of the life of a patient dying from an incurable disease. The duty of prolonging life is not the same as prolonging dying. But yet, I feel that this situation is entirely different from having legislation on the subject. It would be a serious matter indeed if for the first time on our Statute Book there appeared a law giving certain people licence to kill—for it comes to that—some of their fellow men and women. Only in one sense is that allowed—namely, in the case of capital punishment, which was referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Chorley. But, after all, capital punishment is justified because it is a vindication of the sacredness of human life. If once we begin to allow legislation of this kind we put our feet on a very slippery slope.

The noble Lord did not hide from us that this was only the beginning. He said: "We are to proceed step by step." He gave an illustration of what might be another cause for allowing euthanasia —namely, that of a daughter who is prevented from marriage by the incurable illness of her mother.


If I may interrupt the most reverend Primate, I did not say that. What I said was that half the anguish felt by a person suffering in this way was caused by the fact that he knew he was breaking down his wife's health, or possibly preventing his daughter from getting married, or something of that kind.


Of course, I accept the noble Lord's explanation, and I will refer to that again later. If we once begin to allow this, where are we to stop? Now it is proposed that this right should be granted in connection with excessive pain. Why not also to those who are born feeble-minded? Why not also to those who are physically so crippled that they can be of no service to the nation? Why also should it not be applied to those who are in our mental asylums? It has to be remembered that Germany placed its feet on this slippery slope, and euthanasia, which at first was applied only to a very few, was eventually, under the stress of war especially, applied to a large number of people who were regarded as useless mouths in a time of emergency. I feel that there is real danger if we once begin legislating in this way. This kind of legislation will, I believe, ultimately weaken the value which we attach to human life. One of the great characteristics of our civilisation, contrasted with the materialistic civilisation of Communism, is the value we attach to every human life. Imperceptibly and gradually this value in human life will be reduced if by law it is possible year by year to kill a large number of people. There is another point—a very practical point—which one has to bear in mind. I believe that if this law is passed it will cause very great anguish and anxiety to a very large number of old people who are suffering from some kind of infirmity from which they can never recover. I have often been struck by the way in which old people still cling to life. They may, in moments of depression, speak of a longing for death, but nevertheless most of them wish to live. There are among these old people two groups of whom I am especially thinking. There are those who are always suspicious of those around them—suspicious lest they want to get rid of them. If they knew that there was a law which would make this a possibility, their suspicion would increase still more.


If the most reverend Primate will allow me to interrupt him once more, I never suggested that this sort of thing should take place without the full voluntary request, the actual express request, of the patient. I was not contemplating the sort of case he is putting.


There is a larger group of people to whom the noble Lord made reference in his first interruption—namely, the really conscientious old people, who even now get extremely worried because they feel that they are a burden on those upon whom they are dependent. I can imagine the way in which their consciences would in future be torn, wondering whether they ought to apply for this euthanasia so as to relieve those who are caring for them of the burden. These are real facts of human nature. I am speaking not from theory, but from the experience I have gained through visiting large numbers of these old people, who are often incurably ill. I am very doubtful whether any of the regulations to which the noble Lord referred will really be a sufficient safeguard. It is almost impossible to know what pressure may quietly be brought upon the people behind the scenes. We are told that the application must be a voluntary application, but in some of these extreme cases of illness, when the mind has been weakened by morphia and pain, it is very difficult to know whether the patient fully understands what he or she is asking for. Of course, one of the criticisms, if I remember aright, which was made on the last occasion to the Bill which was then before us, was the criticism of the suspense. There would possibly be weeks of suspense before licence to kill was granted. In fact, it was pointed out that in some cases the patient might die before the licence was granted—not an improbable contingency, when we re-member the delay we sometimes find in the granting of licences by many of our Government Departments to-day.

These are all details. I am extremely doubtful whether it would be possible to devise a measure that would give sufficient safeguard and, at the same time, avoid the intolerable suspense of delay. Therefore, it is partly on religious grounds, but also on general social grounds, that I am opposed to the proposal which the noble Lord has made to us. I fully recognise the difficulties which must be felt by many of the doctors, and I shall naturally wait with the greatest interest to hear the opinions they express on this matter. But so far as I am concerned, I am afraid that I must definitely express my opposition to this proposal.

5.15 p.m.


My Lords, I think it would be regarded as anomalous if I, a doctor, made no contribution to this debate. Yet, as I pointed out in 1936 when this matter came before your Lordships, it is not really a doctor's job to settle this matter. It is quite clear to me that if a community decides to terminate life, or a part of life, it will fall to the doctor to do it; but with all the guidance the doctor may be able to give —and I hope I may be able to give a little guidance—I hope the decision will not lie with our profession. There are some of our critics who might advance the view that we already kill enough people.

Putting an end to human life surely involves a new principle in biological control. I think it is a principle so foreign to the general sense of the community that I shall be very surprised if the prediction of the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, comes about in his lifetime, or ever. As to the doctor's reference, which is generally accepted, I think it is very clear and very brief. It has been referred to already, and it is: To cure the patient's disease, if he can, and, if he cannot, to prolong the patient's life so far as may be, relieving pain, that worst of evils, whether physical or mental. It is to be observed that a good doctor does that to which the most reverend Primate referred—may I say, attributing a remark of mine to my colleague, the late Lord Dawson—a good doctor distinguishes between prolonging life and prolonging the act of dying. Any sanction which would lead to a different orientation of the doctor's function and which would, as in the case under consideration, put the doctor's function in reverse, in my judgment would not be in the public interest.

I spoke earlier of guidance. By that I mean that all the pertinent facts connected with this matter do, of course, come before us. That again was referred to by the most reverend Primate. The medical profession and his profession see more of this situation than anyone else. If I may, I would crave your Lordships' indulgence and touch upon some of these, as I call them, attendant facts—that is, actual experiences in our lives. Shall I start with the desire of the patient to terminate his life? Will it surprise your Lordships to know that that request comes much more frequently from patients who are not suffering from a so-called incurable disease, and who are not as a group in great pain? They are in a slate of what our French colleagues called misère, and the desire to terminate life is not in their own minds conditioned either by the fact of their disease being for the time being incurable or by the degree of their pain. This fact perhaps has some affinity with that other distressing fact of which we are becoming aware; that it is not the people who have suffered the heat and burden of the day but the relatively young and immature who want to terminate their lives, and do so.

Your Lordships have heard the criteria laid down by the euthanasia advocates to start this legal sanction going: an incurable disease, great pain and soundness of mind on the part of the patient. As to incurable disease, the term falls very glibly from our lips but it is a fact that the disease that is incurable to-day is cured next year. Is society ready to look back upon a number of lives that may have been sacrificed, any of which might have been the first to be cured of the particular disease from which the patient suffered? As to incurability of a disease in general, incurability is the measure at the moment of the doctor's experience, and those who have the most experience use the term "incurable" least often, because in medicine we talk more and more of controlling disease, rather than of curing it.

As to pain, the second criterion, if I may use medical jargon the "threshold of pain" varies enormously in different patients, and therefore only the experienced doctor can judge how much pain is being suffered. We have never possessed so many means of relieving pain as we do to-day. The noble Lord summed them all up in one word—morphia. May I say that there are numerous derivatives of morphia, and there are numerous substitutes for morphia, amongst which we have to choose the anodyne which is best suited to the particular patient. That there are doctors who lack facility in the use of these remedies must not be taken as an argument in favour of euthanasia; nor, in these days, must it be taken as an argument in favour of euthanasia that doctors have no time to sort these remedies. They are available. As I say. so far as physical pain is concerned, I cannot see that that is a positive reason for terminating life. The pain should be assuaged.

Here I come to the question of morale. I realise that I risk a charge of inhumanity if I stress the point, but I do it only because again and again patients ask for help in this direction. It is inherent in their question, a very common question: "You will stand by me, won't you doctor?" My Lords, what does that question mean? It does not mean, "Abolish my pain" as simply as that. It does mean, "Help me to get rid of this pain, and if it cannot be got rid of entirely (subject to not producing a state of coma, which is non-existence) then help me to bear with fortitude what I am able to bear." Another question is: "Am I up against it, doctor?" If the patient really knows what he is saying in asking, the doctor says, "I am afraid you are." In my experience, the attitude of most patients is that of the soldier who wishes to face the enemy.

Illness, and even pain, for many people constitute a new experience, an unhappy experience; but it has spiritual significance, and, may I say, in my judgment spiritual value. To call the function of a doctor who helps a patient to achieve that degree of elevation of spirit an intolerable burden—as the euthanasia advocate is apt to call it—seems to me to be disparaging one of the very important duties that a doctor has to perform. The two extremes of dying in pain and being killed do not exhaust the possibilities of the stricken patient. There is a middle position, achieved again and again by a kindly and skilful doctor who gives assistance to a fellow human being who has by this time become an intimate friend. These are human happenings, my Lords. It is true that a recent, and very powerful, arrival in the camp of the euthanasia movement is slightly changing the usual, shall I say, propaganda, in the direction of what is claimed to be a new set of ethics. "New occasions teach new-duties," said the right reverend the Dean of St. Pauls, and "rules that were once valid and useful may become obsolete." I am as suspicious of new ethics as was Sir Thomas Browne. I have always felt rather dubious when people talk of the doctor ousting the priest, but perhaps we shall see that that does sometimes happen.

The third criterion is that the patient must be of sound mind—a matter which has been touched upon by the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of York. There is no less difficulty in judging of the patient's state of mind than in assessing the amount of his paiin and the incurability of his disease. It is not that the mind of the patient suffering from a lethal illness is unsound in the legal sense—that is not the point. It is rather that the patient's mind is uncertain; it is fitful; it is variable; it has little certainty or clearness of purpose. During the morning depression the patient rather favours the application for euthanasia. Then, later in the day, he thinks quite differently or he has forgotten what happened in the morning. The mental clarity with which euthanasia advocates are able to think and project their own robust physique and mentality into the situation of the patient is, in my judgment, a danger that must be guarded against.

That brings me to my last consideration, one which I think advocates of euthanasia in general may not have considered sufficiently. Will not some persons who arc smitten with lethal illness misinterpret the raised eyebrows of some of their friends, and feel, as the English monarch was alleged to have felt when he was taking some time in dying, apologetic for being so long? Will not a good number of people avail themselves, or think that they ought to avail themselves, of a legalised permit to ring down the curtain? The most reverend Primate referred to the old people. I entirely share his view. I think there would be a number of old people who would feel that they are encumbering the ground and would like to contribute by this act to make room for someone else. Your Lordships may remember the picture painted by Browning of the sick man, sick unto death. His approaching end and even his obsequies were the subject of discussion and whispered conversation around his bed: And still the man hears all and only craves He may not shame such tender love and slay. That is the point I wish to make, because we obviously must distinguish between the trials of the patient and the trials of the relatives and friends. I remember being rather shocked when one of the noble Lords who supported the Euthanasia Bill fourteen years ago stressed this consciousness in the mind of the patient of being a burden. He said that he considered it a very important condition for legalising euthanasia. Like most, doctors, I am not often shocked, but on that occasion I was. I recollect once, after a consultation, being addressed by a very tense-faced. relative whom I had been trying to assure, in respect of his father, that there was no pain, mental or physical. "But doctor," said the son, "this agony must not go on." I hope your Lordships will agree that it was right for me to look him straight in the eye and ask, "Whose agony?" Upstairs an old man lay peacefully but slowly dying, and downstairs people could not stand and wait.

We doctors hold certain basic considerations about life. We think that every man has an inalienable right to live, and that one must not take this right from him, even if he allows one to do so on a set of circumstances outside himself. I have dealt with some of the other risks. I regard this almost as the greatest risk. I have drawn rather fully upon an address I made in your Lordships' House on this matter in 1936, for, in spite of what the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, said about a lot of water having gone under the bridge. I have not heard any arguments so far to lead me to think that he is correct. I rather think that the subject of euthanasia is where we left it fourteen years ago. By the way, I did not speak against the Bill then any more than I have done against the Motion this evening . If any remarks of mine lead noble Lords to this or the other view, well, that is, in the vernacular, "just too bad." I feel it is my duty to give your Lordships some aspects of this question that come to me every day of my life.

5.37 p.m.


My Lords, it is a very fortunate thing that Sir Thomas More with his contemporaries did not fall into the same error regarding the book Utopia as has misled the noble Lord, Lord Chorley. Sir Thomas lived in an age markedly less tolerant than ours. Had the devout and frequently orthodox monarch, Henry the Eighth, supposed that the pious, devout and exceedingly orthodox Thomas More was, in fact, advocating so heretical a practice as euthanasia, the book would certainly have been burnt by the common hangman, and Sir Thomas More himself would have been in much danger of sharing the same fate. In the end he did share that fate, but it would have come to him much earlier in life than it in fact came.

We do not suppose that all the authors of books about imaginary countries advocate all the practices that they describe. We do not really suppose that H. G. Wells desired to see the sort of society which he envisaged in the Time Machine. We do not attribute to Samuel Butler the medical principles of the inhabitants of Erewhon. We do not think that Dean Swift really agreed with the arguments of the professors of Laputa who attempted to get sunbeams out of cucumbers. Sir Thomas More had a very interesting purpose in writing Utopia. He was answering a question of deep contemporary interest: what sort of institutions would be likely to exist in a state which had reached a high degree of civilisation and without any assistance from the Christian revelation. He attributes to the Utopians a natural religion without the aid of any Divine revelation. In such circumstances, it would be probable enough that they would get their moral theology wrong on certain points, and it is almost certain that they would be attracted by the arguments that can justly be used in favour of the practice of euthanasia.

The basic argument for that practice is that given by the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, in his speech: We do not allow an animal to suffer useless pain; why should we withhold the same kind of mercy from a human being? My Lords, that argument will undoubtedly have its strongest appeal to those who minimise the distinction between the animal and the human creation. If you feel that the difference between a man and an animal is primarily a difference of degree rather than of kind, you will be much attracted by the argument in question. I do not, for a moment, mean that even the strictest and strongest Rationalist will do well to vote for a Euthanasia Bill. Enough has been said already to show how very dangerous such legislation would be to society. Nevertheless, we may expect that the strongest opponents of the practice will be among the adherents of revealed religions—and here I bring forward again an argument used by my much respected friend the late Lord Fitzalan when he addressed the House in 1936. This is not a matter of one religion only. The doctrine of euthanasia, as a doctrine which infringes upon divine sovereignty over human life, has been rejected by the orthodox Jews from time immemorial, by the Christians for nineteen centuries, and by the Mohammedans since the flight of the Prophet. When I am told to-day that there are sixty clergymen who take a different view, frankly I am not very much impressed. They appear to see this as a new problem; but what is there new about it? They are compassionate men; but are they more compassionate than the saints and sages of all these ages of Christianity, who after all saw much more incurable disease than we see and far worse suffering than we witness? They had not the means which we have of alleviating suffering, but they refused the specious arguments in favour of euthanasia, on two grounds.

There is a subject which I must mention, because I would not have it thought that I or anyone else on my side of this question take a negative attitude towards it, although it is a difficult subject to discuss at length. The Christian believes not merely that pain has a natural value, in that it may in some cases improve the character; the Christian also believes that it has a supernatural value. We are, of course, bound to relieve pain wherever possible. We ought to relieve the pain of the sufferer by giving him every drug and every comfort at our command. However, not only in cases of sickness but throughout the whole of life there is a vast residue of pain which cannot be alleviated and which we are taught to believe is of genuine value. I will not say-more on this subject, save only to remind your Lordships that we do sometimes see in obituary columns a notice that such and such a person died after many years of suffering courageously borne. We do not feel that that suffering has been a waste. We feel that such a notice is a very noble epitaph indeed.

The other base of the Christian position is the sanctity of human life—and here, again, we meet the Rationalist. A Rationalist may pick and choose among the Ten Commandments in a way that the Christian is not privileged to do. He may reject the first three Commandments; he may reject others, or modify them, or consider them to need reinterpretation. But he will tend to agree that there is much to be said for the Commandment, "Thou shalt not kill." It has been suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Chorley (I hope I have understood him correctly), that the position of a judge who gives a death sentence is in some way an exception to the law "Thou shalt not kill." I do not think that that position will bear close examination. The judge is one to whom society has committed the exercise of the right of self defence which is inherent in every man, and which is, in fact, a part of our conception of the sanctity of human life. We hand those powers of self-defence over to the judge for the protection of society, just as in other circum-stances we would hand them to the soldier on whom also we impose the duty of taking human life. If these be exceptions, then I say they are the exceptions that prove the rule. I can conceive nothing more dangerous than to suppose that by an Act of Parliament you can create another class licensed to bring death; and I can conceive nothing more psychologically foolish and disruptive than to give those functions to doctors known to us all as the bringers of life and health.

My Lords, these are not matters solely of reason, but also of the racial conscious-ness by which we are often so deeply moved. The most reverend Primate has pointed out how dangerous it is to solve problems by the short cut of death. So many problems can so easily be solved, so many Gordian knots are there to be cut, if we wish to use that method! I could not help wondering whether some significance did not lie in the references made by the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, to the destruction of personality. Where do you get a more evident case of the destruction of personality than in the lunatic? Once we open our minds to this kind of short cut we have opened our minds to others. I feel that even the mere debating of such questions has a certain danger. The new morality can so easily lead to the very old sin. Consider the situation of some young woman, worn out by nursing a patient. Is she not sometimes tempted to think, and will she not be more and more tempted to think as this subject is advocated: "If the patient cannot decide for herself, is it not ray duty to make up my mind for her?" And what of the situation of the patient, becoming increasingly conscious that she is being nursed by one who wishes she were dead? There is something very terrible about this reversal of the morale of the sick room. The sick room is based upon a set of conventions. The supreme basis is the determination of nurse and patient alike to continue the struggle, however hopeless it may seem. How very unwise it is, and how very unkind it will prove, to tamper with these convictions, even if you call them conventions!

5.53 p.m.


My Lords, I think that Lord Chorley is greatly to be congratulated on his courage in opening this discussion this afternoon, because although many distinguished people have signified their adherence to this idea there is no question that it will meet with great opposition in your Lordships' House, and also in the country, which this House always so admirably reflects. It is no good, I think, trying to make out that euthanasia is an innocent or harmless project. I would not say it was revolutionary, but it is certainly an evolutionary extension of liberty of great importance, giving to the individual new rights to which, up till now, he has not had access. These rights in other directions have already been admitted. Following birth control, and by divorce. there has been a greatly reduced area of human misery. What we propose this afternoon is, in point of fact, a new freedom, and undoubtedly it will antagonise the embattled forces of the official world, to be represented by the Lord Chancellor's speech at the end of the debate to-day.

In the past, it has been no easy matter to establish freedoms in birth control and divorce, and it will probably be still harder in this new field which covers such a vast abyss of pain and sorrow. I do not think that we have any right to expect that the Church will relax its opposition to what we are trying to obtain. It has not done so, nor can it do so, with regard to birth control and divorce. The most that I think we can hope for from the Church is ultimate acquiescence in whatever action the State may take. But there are two arguments against this project which I do not think can be permanently maintained. One is that it is open to abuse. Of course, all freedoms are open to abuse, but we try, and shall continue to try, to guard against that, and shall hedge this freedom round with precautions and safeguards. In point of fact, however, the argument about liability to abuse has no real validity against any form of freedom. The second argument is that the doctors are against it. We all know, from our recent reading of the life of Miss Florence Nightingale, that at the time when she was trying to reduce the sum of human misery the doctors were against her. And, quite recently, when Mr. Bevan brought forward his great measure for public health (which I regard as one of the two great achievements of this Government, the other being their policy on India) I cannot say that I noticed any affection among the doctors for Mr. Bevan's proposals. It is true that in the end, while whispering that they would ne'er consent, they did in fact consent. And I hope they will do so again when it comes to this subject, because, after all, my hope is based on the long and noble tradition of reducing pain and suffering which has been for all time the business of the medical profession.

I have—as I am sure everyone else in this House has—the greatest respect for religious doctrines and professional scruples. But surely the quality of mercy should not be strained to the advantage of those doctrines and those scruples. I do not see how I could stand up in this House—I, who have lived seventy years without having to undergo any form of physical pain—and try to deny to others the release from suffering that I myself have not had to undergo. Many, of course, will not desire this release. Some people bear pain better than others do. Women, I have always been given to understand, bear pain very much better than men do. But to those—and there are many—who find pain intolerable I cannot see how we can deny them the freedom to end it. A humane phrase which has been much quoted this afternoon with regard to animals says that we are right to put them out of their misery. In this connection, I could not quite follow the argument used by the noble Earl who spoke immediately before me. If I drew the same distinction as he does between animals and human beings, I should put human beings first. Therefore, it seems intolerable to me that in this matter animals should be better treated than human beings. After all, the reason why we treat animals so well in this respect is that we cannot bear to see them suffering. They cannot choose for themselves as we can; but surely we should have such liberty of choice.

The last time that we debated this question in your Lordships' House I believe that the side for which I am speaking this afternoon had six votes in their favour. If we were to divide this afternoon I should hope for seven. But it would not make any difference to my feeling if we had fewer than six. I have spent my life mainly in minorities, and I have never been prouder to belong to a minority than I am to belong to this, which is probably the smallest of them all. I wish that I were eloquent enough to make the wind of history whistle through your Lordships' House, because I believe that posterity will look back on this refusal you are going to make this afternoon, or which is to be made for you by the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor, as people look now on the burning of witches— as a barbarous survival of mediæval ideas, an example of that high-minded cruelty from the entanglement of which it has taken mankind so many centuries to emerge. In that day we few, we five or six shall, I believe, be remembered.

6.1 p.m.


My Lords, I do not want to take up a great deal of time, because the points which I wish to put before your Lordships have been put far better than I could, one by the most reverend primate, the Lord Archbishop of York, and the other by my noble friend, Lord Horder, who has put the medical profession's point of view very clearly. I should like to support him in what he says and to emphasise one point he made about the change that a law of this sort would make in the atmosphere of the sick room, where at present the patient is convinced that the doctors and nurses are doing their best to alleviate his pain. If he felt that one day the doctor would come in as executioner, even though he might long to end his life him-self because of his pain, I do not feel that it would lead to an improvement in the relations between doctor and patient, and it would not be for the benefit of the patient in the long run. My second point in approaching this question from the medical angle is that at the present time the patient who is suffering intense agony constitutes a perpetual challenge to the members of my profession to find means to alleviate that pain and make him as comfortable and contented as possible. In the last ten or twenty years a great deal has been done towards that end, not merely by the use of narcotics, but by minor surgical operations and various treatments, which have done away with what has now been proved to be unnecessary pain and suffering. The further extension of that work would be much better for patients, doctors and the world in general.

Where is this process of euthanasia going to end? The noble Lord, Lord Chorley, was tempted himself to say something about "step by step." I can see a slow declension once we break away from the principle of the sanctity of human life. I was brought up very firmly on that principle and in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries it was generally held. The effects of two wars, however, with the unpleasant occurrences between and after the wars, have led to a great weakening in that principle. I am sure that once we legally broke down that principle there would occur what occurred in Germany before the war, when mental defectives were put out of their misery, mad people were destroyed and people suffering from all sorts of incurable diseases were given release. It is much better to encourage the medical profession to find out forms of treatment and to alleviate pain rather than to encourage them, speaking quite frankly, to kill people because they are in so much pain. I hope very firmly that your Lordships will reject the Motion before the House this afternoon.

6.5 p.m.


My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, has put forward the case for euthanasia this afternoon with his accustomed clearness, and with your permission I will make a few observations from the medical point of view only, leaving noble Lords better qualified than myself to deal with the moral and legal aspects of the problem. So far as this country is concerned, euthanasia has been advocated for imbecile infants deformed in body or brain, for hopeless moral perverts, for the chronic sick wracked with pain, for the insane with degeneration of the nervous system rendering them subhuman, and as a means of terminating distressing illness certain to prove fatal in a short time. Under our humane laws the infants referred to are cared for until their existence terminates by natural process. The moral perverts present a problem in which both Church and State are interested. The chronic sick are fortunate if they can get hospital treatment, and must otherwise rely on the attention of relatives and friends and their local general practitioner. The insane are carefully protected. The dying are relieved by drugs. If the physician should give an overdose of drug to terminate an illness, as the law now stands he may be charged with premeditated murder.

The question before us this afternoon is: what justification is there for legalising euthanasia which, it must be agreed, is a confession of failure so far as other measures are concerned? The cases that are brought to our notice naturally fall into two classes: those where the victim is not capable of expressing any wish to live or to die; and secondly, those where the patient expresses an urgent desire that his suffering should be terminated in this way. The discussion has not turned in any way on the first group, which can be left to the national conscience. But with regard to the second group, no doubt there are certain diseases that are in our minds when we contemplate the position. The layman usually thinks of advanced cancer cases. There are other diseases where the sufferings of the patient may reach the limit of human endurance. The asthmatic in his acute attacks passes to the very edge of the grave with a feeling of imminent dissolution. The person suffering from rheumatoid arthritis may be so crippled and in such pain as to lose all desire to live. Trigeminal neuralgia is one of the most dreadful diseases that afflict humanity. But in thinking of these dire diseases we must not forget that efficient and early treatment will do a great deal to check the advance of these diseases and to reduce the number of those who pass to the final tragic stage. My own opinion, based on my experience, is that there are few cases at present where euthanasia should be contemplated, and the outlook is that these cases will become fewer still as new remedies are introduced.

It may be, however, that there are cases where euthanasia would be justified. These are cases where, in the first place, the disease is irremediable, and, in the second place, where there is an urgent desire on the part of the patient for death —a desire reasonable and consistent. But it is not easy to satisfy those conditions. I fear it is notorious that doctors are occasionally wrong in diagnosis. I have in mind at the moment two cases of this nature. In the one case I consulted with two of the most eminent members of the profession, and we were agreed that the patient had only six months to live. The patient died years afterward from an entirely different complaint. There has recently been in the hospital where I work a patient who was examined by a team of doctors from two of the best known hospitals in London. They pronounced him incurable, and he was admitted to hospital on compassionate grounds. I had the pleasure about twelve months afterwards of certifying him as fit for light work. Even if you have a team of doctors to deal with these cases, there is always the possibility of error.

I venture to think that, before euthanasia could be properly carried out, the matter would have to go before a medical jury—and even that jury might come to a wrong conclusion. But supposing that directions are given for the euthanasia to be carried out, then it is clear that it cannot be carried out by the practitioner who is in charge of the case. Usually, in the late stage of disease there is a bond of sympathy and affection existing between doctor and patient, and the practitioner would be horrified at the idea of having to terminate in this way his patient's suffering. If I may recall another personal experience, it is of a colleague who was instructed by the Home Office to examine a murderer. He came to me in great distress to say that he had found him perfectly sane, and that he could not accept the fee for that type of work but had presented it to a hospital. The only way of carrying out the decisions of such a medical jury would be by a panel of euthanasia specialists. I believe these considerations have been in the minds of those who are in favour of euthanasia. I have not spoken of euthanasia as a means of easing the burdens of relatives or nurses, because I am quite sure that there are other ways of doing that, and it is a matter for the Ministry of Health. In conclusion, I would say that the problem should be approached with great caution, remembering with all humility that euthanasia is an admission of failure and a counsel of despair.

6.17 p.m.


My Lords, in preparation for this debate this afternoon I read the debate reported in the 1936 Hansard, and to my mind one of the striking facts to emerge from that reading is that no progress whatsoever has been made by those who are advocating euthanasia in assembling arguments which might bring any kind of conviction to an unprejudiced audience. The late Lord Dawson of Penn spoke in that debate, and as cancer has been mentioned several times to-day, and is obviously in the minds of a number of people, I might mention that that great medical authority in his speech laid special emphasis on the fact that In relation to cancer especially, it would not be correct to say that most cases of cancer are characterised by agonising pain. He further said: There has been in the last few years a steady growth of power on the part of my profession to assuage pain. We see it in the growth of the excellence of nursing and in the increase in the number of medicinal remedies, and it may be fairly said that there is much more control of pain to-day than there existed years ago. I should like to emphasise that Lord Dawson, although he discussed at some length the question of euthanasia, ex-pressed his opinion in the way in which such a conclusion is best expressed, by voting against the Bill.

I have been struck to-day by the fact that those who have spoken in favour of euthanasia, to which I am opposed, have not brought forward any evidence as to the need of mercy killing. How many cases are there? Cancer has been referred to, and that I feel has been adequately disposed of in Lord Dawson's words. The noble Lord, Lord Uvedale, who spoke before me, mentioned his own experience. I think one is entitled to ask those who speak on behalf of the introduction of a Bill of this nature how-many cases there are. Is there really any case at all for introducing euthanasia? Let me point out that when Lord Dawson of Penn spoke of the great improvement in therapeutic methods and the introduction of new medicines, it was in 1936. We are now living in 1950, and since 1936 there has been what amounts almost to a revolution in the introduction of new methods of treatment, in the medicinal substances such as penicillin, the sulphonamides and a number of other substances of a similar kind. I will not go into details, for this is not a proper occasion upon which to do so, but there is now a very much greater and more powerful armoury of drugs in the hands of the medical profession to deal with pain and to relieve suffering than there was a few years ago.

I should like to ask upon what experience of doctors is it alleged that this demand for euthanasia is based. I began practice at a very early age—not very much over twenty-one. I have practised in the slum districts of Southwark; I have practised in other parts of this country, and I have practised in South Africa. I have had a very considerable experience of medical work in the Services, both in World War I and World War II. I cannot recall these examples of terrible pain which called for a consideration of euthanasia. I cannot recall that I have not been able to sooth and assuage pain. I wonder how many doctors have had cases of terrible pain that they have not been able to assuage? I have known terrible cases of very great suffering on the part of relatives watching nearby while someone dies. That is a very terrible thing, and I think the noble Lord, Lord Horder, was quite right when he asked the son of a father: "Who is suffering?" That is sometimes much more serious than the suffering of the patient himself.

When the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, was speaking of his boyhood impression of the suffering of a woman friend of his family, I could not help wondering whether that had not had such an effect upon his mind as to distort his judgment in this matter. I can quite believe that it was a terrible thing, but I think it may have made such an impression upon him that he has not got this medical question really in focus. I would point out that neither the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, nor the noble Lord, Lord Denman, so far as I know, have any medical experience at all. I know some of the doctors who have been mentioned as supporters of euthanasia, but having made an inquiry on the matter I should like to report that at the recent meeting of the World Medi- cal Association, which met in April or May of this year in Scandinavia, a resolution was passed against euthanasia. That Association represents doctors from every country in the world which chooses to send delegates. I think one may say that a very great majority of the opinion in the whole medical profession of the world is against euthanasia.

Let me look at another aspect of the matter. There is this question, rather glossed over by the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, of the possible extension of euthanasia. The Bill which was moved in 1936-one of the rare copies of which I have in my hand, and which I am sworn by solemn oath to return to the Library, because copies are so scarce—lays down the conditions under which euthanasia may be given. No advance has been made on that at all, and this, quite: frankly, strikes me as being very crude. That Bill was moved by Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede, one who had less knowledge of medical subjects than most people of my acquaintance.


The noble Lord is being rather unfair. The late Lord Ponsonby moved the Second Reading of the Bill only because of Lord Moynihan's death. He was to have moved it, and he was a very eminent medical man.


He was certainly an eminent medical man, but I do not think Lord Ponsonby had much medical knowledge, and I think it would have been better to choose somebody else who had. With regard to the extension of euthanasia, once this practice is established and a law passed, remember that there is an arrangement now by which we can extend things by regulation and order. It is proposed to apply euthanasia to patients who are very seriously ill and unlikely to recover, and who are suffering great pain. The noble Lord, Lord Chorley, suggested that it might be applied to a small child.


That suggestion was made in a leading article in a recent number of The Medical Officers of Health Magazine, and it was not my suggestion at all. The noble Lord continues to misrepresent me in this matter.


Another suggestion is that euthanasia should be ex-tended—the noble Lord, Lord Uvedale mentioned this—to some mentally defective children. I have visited an institution where extreme cases of mental and physical defect were collected together. The children were small—many of them confined to their beds or cribs. They had tiny little heads, not half the normal size. They looked animal-like, and they could by no human possibility ever have been improved from that condition. Now why, if euthanasia is to be applied, should not those children be removed from the earthly scene? After all, they are taking up medical practitioners' time; they are taking up nurses' time, and they are taking up the money of the general public. Why should not the hopeless lunatics be included, if this argument for euthanasia is continued? There are a great many of them quite hopeless. Why should we not go the whole "Hitler hog" and set up concentration camps to which we could send the people whom we do not like, on the ground that they are mentally and medically unfit?

As a doctor I really do feel—and I have no shame in announcing it—a sense of outrage that this proposal has been brought before us. The medical profession are brought up to work hard. They train themselves to help, to heal and to save people. I would save anyone, who-ever he was, black or white, a soldier on our own side or an enemy. I have myself, as part of my medical duty, helped and tried to save the life of a German soldier under conditions when he and I were both under fire. I would do it again, and so would hundreds of other doctors. I am quite convinced that the vast body of doctors in this country are those who feel that, whoever else is going to administer this euthanasia, it should not be they themselves. It is the business of the medical profession to help and to heal, and not to go into this pathological excursion into the realms of the unconscious and bring out of it some horrible idea of euthanasia for certain classes of people. I speak with a good deal of emotion in this matter, because I feel a great deal of emotion. I have always felt that a doctor is a man who, by his profession, has vowed himself to the service of mankind in a very special way, to serve—and God knows he often has to serve in the most terrible and appalling conditions. But the suggestion that the business of euthanasia should be put into our hands, that we should meet round the bedside of a patient and then give the patient some injection which causes death, is, to us, a dishonourable one. I hope the House will reject this Motion very finally indeed.

6.30 p.m.


My Lords, I intervene at this late hour and without any premeditation only in order to make it clear in your Lordships' House that the medical members are unanimous in rejecting this idea. After fifty years contact with death from time to time, one is bound to reject it, as my colleagues have done from their experience. I am surprised to find protagonists amongst the descendants of medical men, Lord Moynihan and Lord Denman. The father of the first Lord Denman was Lord Chief Justice of England and a distinguished ornament of the medical profession. However, the ideas they have gathered since their progenitors' time I would reject, and my colleagues practising in the profession have done the same. I think the idea of euthanasia is dreadful, when one has spent a lifetime in taking great risks to save human life, realising the truth of the saying that: The abyss is worth a leap, however wide, When life, sweet life, is on the other side. Whether it is a physician who gets his patient a night's rest, although he knows he is risking depression of the heart and may lose the battle, or whether it is a surgeon who does a desperate operation, he is fighting for life.

The same applies in chronic cases, and although specific instances have not been given, I venture to give your Lordships some which have occurred in recent years. Asthma has been mentioned, and the repeated fight for life when the patient is gasping for air. Yet within the last few years there has been, or there is about to be, put into our hands, or we have the promise of the gift of, something that can relieve the patient within a very short space of time. Rheumatoid arthritis was mentioned, and yet again, from the same source of research, there has been put into the hands of the medical profession a similar weapon which may relieve all those sufferers. If an idea of this sort were accepted, within a measurable distance of time the patients who are now capable of being relieved might have been quietly put away. Or take cancer. As noble Lords in this House, particularly my noble friend, Lord Horder, know, cancer of the prostate is one of the most distressing and perhaps one of the most painful diseases from which men of mature years can suffer. Yet in many cases the whole of that suffering has been removed and life prolonged, sometimes for years, not by drastic treatment but by pills swallowed twice a day. If that man, with intense discomfort and in pain and regarded at the time of his diagnosis as inevitably bound to die within measurable time, had been condemned to death—because that is what it amounts to—it would have been a life thrown away. Within a few months this discovery might have led to at least the prolongation of his life, if not his complete recovery.

Reference has been made to the young. I believe the over twenty-ones were mentioned in the Bill which was before your Lordships' House fourteen years ago. But Life is a little matter, And death is naught to the young. wrote Stevenson. When I remember the way in which, in the 1914–18 war, the young subaltern sprang over the top, I think that is true. He did not think of death, nor did the young airman in the last war when he took his flight into the air. Stevenson also wrote: Life is dear to the aged. Are we to contemplate the situation in the sick room which has been pointed out, where an elderly patient with a chronic illness looks round with suspicion and accepts every suggestion such as: "How can you bear all this?" or, "Don't you wish it was over?", as a suggestion that he should apply for the appropriate form and fill it in? I think it is dreadful that we should be asked to contemplate such a situation. Moreover, suppose quite clearly on his own initiative the patient put forward a request for release; is not to agree to that request legalising suicide? To my mind, it is. Furthermore, as has been pointed out, although the patient may apply for a form and sign it one day, he may wish to revoke it. What is his procedure then?


It is too late.


It is too late. Reference has also been made to animals. Have any of your Lordships ever had to put a favourite dog to death? I have. I do not know to-day what the look in his eye meant, whether it was gratitude or reproach. I should not like to see that look in the eye of a patient and not know whether it was gratitude or reproach. So I hope your Lordships will take such a determined view on this question that you will deter any of the protagonists from introducing a Bill in this House and forcing us to yet another debate on this painful subject. The labour we delight in physics pain, and that is the labour we wish to continue,

6.38 p.m.


My Lords, this is, as the noble Lord who has just sat down said, a painful subject, and I am sure it is with great reluctance that all those speaking on this subject to-night do so. In my own case, however, I speak from a sense of duty and of feeling, for although I respect very much the medical profession and their views, I think we have the right to voice the views of the patients also. Those who have had the misfortune to witness suffering of this kind will, I know, sympathise with the action of the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, in introducing this Motion. I feel sure that our natural instincts are mercy and compassion. As the noble Lord has said, if one sees the agony of an animal that cannot be cured, one's instinct is to help that animal out of its pain. I suggest to your Lordships that if we are confronted with the case of a person who is suffering agonising pain over a long period and whose disease has been diagnosed as utterly incurable, our real instinctive human feelings would be, "Let this person, if he so wishes, have a speedy release." I wish to emphasise that the Motion is in respect of voluntary euthanasia. It is not euthanasia for put-ting away people whom we do not like.


You are ask-ing the medical profession to do it. Ask somebody else.


As I say, I respect the reluctance of the medical profession to take on a new responsibility, but I think that in this particular case we have to consider the patient. I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Haden-Guest, asked about numbers. I cannot give him the number of incurable diseases in England, but I am told—I do not know whether the figure is reliable—that in the case of cancer patients it is something like 60,000. Lord Dawson of Penn said in his speech that he considered that in something under one half of that number was pain a major factor. That, of course, was an expression of opinion. I have puzzled over this question and, although it may be a natural reaction to be merciful, there must be very strong reasons indeed against such a course.

Some of those reasons we have heard mentioned this afternoon. In my view they come under four headings. The first is the religious objection which has been so ably put forward by the noble Earl, Lord Iddesleigh, this afternoon. I should be the last person to enter into a theological controversy on this subject, but I should like just to stress two facts. In the first place, the noble Earl quoted from the Middle Ages, and said that the Saints were content to see pain and far worse conditions than we know now. But we have advanced from the Middle Ages, and the burning of witches, and the allowing of suffering of pain. Secondly, I would advance these two arguments. One is that there is a very large body of Christians who believe in euthanasia. The second is that there is a considerable body, though not so large, of ministers of religion who believe that Christian teaching would allow voluntary euthanasia. I ask your Lordships to remember that fact. But the real point I hope to make on this religious issue is that we are not asking any religious person now to practise euthanasia, or to persuade one's friends or families to do so. All we ask is toleration. Religion has fought for toleration in the past and we say only this: that it is merciful to release from pain, and we hope to regularise this step by a Bill in this House. I do not wish to stress the religious aspect, about which I can say very little. There are two other major aspects. One is the possibility of abuse, with which I can shortly deal, and which in the Bill of 1936 I think was fairly well covered. Actually, if you can somehow bribe or corrupt five different persons to help and aid you to commit a murder, there are certainly easier ways of doing that than by voluntary euthanasia. But still, even if there are not sufficient safeguards, if a Bill is introduced, again it will be easy for Parliament to add safeguards to make the position even more secure.

I come to the major points of discussion which we have to consider. The first is this. People have stressed, and very rightly stressed, the sanctity of life. It has been argued, and very pertinently argued, that if we consent to this voluntary euthanasia, which is a principle of allowing people to be despatched, then we open the door to much worse things; that before we know where we are we shall have a dictator putting away his enemies, putting them into gas chambers as Hitler did, getting rid of them in that sort of way. That is the argument: that it is the thin end of the wedge. In reply to that, I should like to say that practically every reform that has ever been introduced has been attacked as being the thin end of the wedge. But, apart from that, if a Hitler, or some other dictator, ever came to this country, a man who has probably waded through bloodshed and violence, and who holds down the country with an army of secret police, does anybody seriously consider that he would be stopped from doing away with his enemies because we had or had not practised voluntary euthanasia? If we consider the implications of that argument, your Lordships will see that it is not one which we need take very seriously.

There is another argument to be considered in respect of the medical profession. I see their point of view. This is really the crux of the logical opposition to voluntary euthanasia. That argument is that it would breed distrust, that it might destroy the confidence of the patient in the doctor, that it might bring into the sick room an atmosphere of further anxiety, a painful atmosphere of distrust and almost a fear of the doctor, and that at any cost this must be prevented. I think that is a good argument but I want to examine it a little more closely for a moment. One must remember that under the proposed Bill—I think this is very important—the doctor is never the arbiter. The doctor does not say: "This man must be put away." It is the patient who is always the arbiter. It is the patient who has to insist that his suffering is incurable, and that the only possible way of release is by some hypodermic injection or otherwise.

All the doctor has to do—though it is an immense responsibility—is to say that in his opinion a particular disease is incurable at the present time and that the pain is agonising. It is true that his opinion has to be certified by another doctor and a referee, to see that the whole case is in order but there is no arbiter. The doctor does not have to come and put away the patient. Personally, I think the noble Lord, Lord Horder, used some very moving words—I hope I am quoting him correctly—when he said that the patient says "Stand by me." I do not know what your Lordships feel, but I should feel very much more sympathetic and affectionate, if I may use the word, towards a doctor who I felt was not only trying to cure me and to relieve my pain but would, in the last extreme, when the disease was incurable and the pain insufferable, even go one step further and help me with an easy way out. That man I would take to my heart.

I think we have to look at the other side. it is true that there may be cases where the atmosphere in the sick room is worsened by a feeling of uncertainty on the part of the patient. It is possible. There may be relations who will try surreptitiously to influence the incurable case to apply for euthanasia. It might happen. Personally, I think that some of your Lordships have taken a rather jaundiced view. It has rather been suggested in the debate that that would be much more frequent than actually would happen. I do not think that people on the whole are as brutal and horrible as that. One must weigh up against that possibility, too, the immense good, and the immense relief from suffering in so many thousands of cases, that would come out of some means of euthanasia. I believe that that relief far outweighs the possibility that there might be a few cases where added mental anxiety was caused.

The last point that I believe the medical profession should consider very carefully indeed is the position of the doctor to-day. Some people have suggested that when doctors see hopeless cases they do, if I may use the word, surreptitiously add to the dose too much morphia or whatever it may be, and so shorten the patient's life. If they do, I should be the last person to criticise them. But I think it is an intolerable position for the doctor. By doing this, by letting his emotions, his natural feelings of mercy and pity, come into operation, he puts himself into the position of being a murderer, of possibly being tried by the courts, of losing his livelihood and, of course, that of his whole family. What a risk that wretched man is taking in order to alleviate the suffering of a patient! I think that is the biggest point in favour of the Bill. It would relieve the doctor of what I should have thought is a terrible dilemma.

But far from its happening now, my personal complaint is that it does not happen. I know of at least three cases concerning poor people—admittedly they were in the country, and perhaps that made more difficulties—who for months and months suffered the most agonising pain through not having enough drugs. In one case there were enough drugs, but little by little the action of the drugs became less effective. These people were crying out for some alleviation, for merciful release, and they were not given that release. I think one could multiply those instances not merely by hundreds but by thousands. I do not want to keep your Lordships longer to-night. We have listened to a most interesting debate, and we have the Government reply to follow. Finally, I should like to wind up by saying: Please remember that we, the promoters of this Motion and those who support it, are not asking your Lordships to decide whether a person shall live or die. What we are asking is whether that death shall be more speedy or more protracted and painful. I appeal merely for toleration — "Blessed are the merciful."

6.53 p.m.


My Lords, I believe that the most important point of this matter has not been adequately brought out in this debate, although it has been alluded to. That point is the absolute value of human life. I was most impressed by a speech which was made by Lord Templewood at the time of the debate on capital punishment. As Home Secretary, he had been in favour of capital punishment, and I remember that in his speech he told us how he came to be converted to the other view. He had spent a period in Spain and had considered carefully what was the political difference in point of view between him-self, as a British Conservative, and the Fascists that he found around him. He said that he came to the conclusion that the real difference was the value that he put on the individual and on human life. I was most impressed by that statement. As a member of the Labour Party, I should like to state that that is exactly my view also. I believe that the ultimate difference between myself, and my Labour Party colleagues in general, and Communism, is that we put a much higher value upon the individual than they do. The ultimate ditch that lies between democracy and the totalitarian of various hue is just this point of the utter value of the individual human and of human life.

One speech was made from the opposite side of the House with which I very much agree. The noble Earl, Lord Iddesleigh, said, I believe, that he thought there were exceptions to the rule "Thou shalt not kill"—namely, the judge and the soldier: and that it was a case of the exception proving the rule. That I believe to be an entirely accurate statement of the case. There is. to my mind, only one case in which one may legitimately kill a human being or hazard his life, and that is for the purpose of saving other human life. It is for that reason that I am not a pacifist. If we bow down and let the evil men of the world trample over us we do not save human life, we lose more. When I say "human life" I do not mean merely human existence in slavery, but something broader, more valuable and more dignified than that. It is because I believe in the importance of human life in that broader sense that I rise to speak to-day. After all, in condemning a man to death the judge does so because the man has killed another. At the time of the debate on capital punishment I opposed capital punishment because I believed that the figures showed that if you abolish capital punishment you do not, in fact, lose more human lives. Other noble Lords took the opposite view; they believed that if capital punishment were abolished we should lose more human lives. Both sides, however, believed this: that there is an ultimate value in human life. That was what the whole debate was about.

In my opinion, noble Lords who, out of the generosity of their hearts and because they loathe seeing suffering, are supporting this Motion are mistaken in their belief. It is terribly difficult to tell whether or not a human being is suffering. I have seen human beings suffer and die. and at the time I have thought them to be in considerable pain. On one occasion I remarked on the fact to a doctor, but he assured me that the patient who was groaning and moaning was in fact unconscious. I believe that the statements—I will not say "statistics," because no statistics have been produced—that thousands of people would benefit from this supposed reform, are much exaggerated. If we let such a thing as this euthanasia proposal be-come law, we would open a door to a crooked argument which would be used by those unbalanced people who commit murder. Basically the murderer is unbalanced, in that he believes that he and his are more valuable than his neighbour and the property of his neighbour. He believes that he has a right to kill his neighbour because his neighbour is in some way inconvenient to him, the murderer. The murderer will say: "There are people in this country who are entitled to pass judgment upon whether some other human being should live or die. Therefore, I am entitled, for good cause, as I see it, to pass judgment on some other human being." The argument is crooked, I admit, and not one which any rational man should hold. But it will be held. If this thing should come into law. it would promote a basic feeling which would strike at the very structure of our civilisation—that men are not so valuable; that they are less valuable than the State, perhaps; or, generally, less valuable than anything else one may consider valuable at the time. It is because I insist—and I think that we here should insist—that man is really the most valuable thing with which we have to deal, that I beg your Lord-ships not to side with those who have moved and supported this Motion.

7.2 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure that all your Lordships will agree that this discussion has been a very interesting one, and quite up to the traditions of this House. At this late hour of the night I shall not attempt to detain your Lordships for any length of time. I ought, however, to tell your Lordships what the attitude of the Government is with regard to this matter. I can best do so, I think, by telling you that I shall advise your Lordships, if this goes to a Division, to vote against the Motion. It is, of course, open to any noble Lord to introduce a Bill, with the appropriate safeguards; and if he chooses to do so, we shall have to consider that Bill. But this is a mere abstract proposition, without any safeguards or, indeed, any Bill at all. It is something which no Government could possibly support.

I believe that I could speak for all my colleagues in saying what follows, but I am conscious of the fact that at least I can speak for myself. I appreciate, of course, the fact that those who have brought this matter forward sincerely believe what they have advocated. It has been discussed from the religious point of view and from the medical point of view. I shall offer a few words to your Lord-ships from the legal point of view. I believe, from that point of view, that the consequences of our passing any Bill like the one which has been discussed would be most grave and most serious. From the medical point of view, those of us who had the privilege of listening to the doctors amongst us speaking to-day have heard put forward what they wish to say. Before to-day's debate I read the report of the debate we had in 1936, and I was deeply impressed by the speech which Lord Horder made then, just as I was by his speech to-day. I was also impressed by the speech of Lord Dawson of Penn.

I should like to quote to your Lord-ships just a sentence or two from those speeches. They put the matter, I think, very neatly. Lord Horder said this—it is the substance of what he has said to-day, and I take this sentence only: Be it observed that the good doctor surely makes a distinction between prolonging life and prolonging the act of dying. Lord Dawson of Penn put it in this way: There has gradually crept into medical opinion, as there has crept into lay opinion, the feeling that one should make the act of dying more gentle and more peaceful even if it does involve curtailment of the length of life. Then he explained what he meant by that: I read that it is lawful to use drugs to alleviate pain, even though it be foreseen that these may shorten life, provided that the alleviation of pain and not the shortening of life is the primary purpose of the drug. That seems to me to be the real distinction.

That exposition of the views of the two noble Lords who spoke to us on the last occasion, reinforced as they have been by noble Lords who speak with great authority on this matter to-day, leads me to suggest that that is the right solution. If that is so, is it not plain that you are dealing with something, if I may again quote Lord Dawson of Penn: which belongs to the wisdom and conscience of the medical profession and not to the realm of law. I remember so well how, after prosecuting in a case at the Old Bailey—it was a case which attracted a great deal of attention, and it concerned accounts and accountancy—some members of the Institute of Chartered Accountants came to me (I was Attorney-General at the time) and asked me to formulate principles and rules upon which an auditor should act in giving approval to, or withholding approval from, the accounts of a company. I recall saying: "You might just as well ask me to define what is conduct unbecoming an officer and gentleman. One cannot define it; it is not a matter which can be formulated in strict rules." Surely, if we accept the principle—the general principle which I have quoted— as being the medical ethic, we must leave to the conscience of the medical profession the carrying out of those principles in accordance with the traditions of what is perhaps the most noble profession of all.

I confess, too, that I agree entirely, from the religious point of view, with the very fine speech—as I thought it—made by the most reverend Primate the Lord Archbishop of York. I do believe in the sanctity of human life, and it seems to me utterly irrelevant to compare this question with the question of the attitude you take to your horse or your dog. That was a matter to which Lord Chorley referred. Of course, if we have a horse or a dog suffering as the result of some dreadful accident we get someone to put that unhappy animal out of pain. But what relevance has that to what we are considering now? Surely, the whole distinction is that you are dealing here with human life—and I think nearly everyone believes in the sanctity of human life. You cannot, surely, treat humans on the same basis as you would treat an animal. Lord Chorley rightly said that an animal could not, of course, give his consent. Does he not realise that the very arguments he used are arguments which tell much more powerfully in favour of exterminating idiots and people of that sort, than they bear upon the question of euthanasia? We have all seen what dreadful consequences spring from that doctrine. We have seen the thin end of the wedge introduced under Hitler; we have seen centres where killings took place, centres which started by being places where idiots were put away, and which finally became places where people who were political undesirables were put away. Most of us here, no doubt, would have qualified for that.

There is another aspect of this matter about which, perhaps, I can speak with some little authority. If you are going to depart from this doctrine of the sanctity of human life, if you are going to allow someone to fill up a form and then by going around to a euthanasia referee get the form approved and signed up, what will the consequences be on the public conscience? In the courts to-day we sometimes have cases of mercy killings. If we place such a Bill as this on the Statute Book. I can see that this will be the defence in future: "I am very sorry: I made a mistake about this. I did not get the right form, so I knocked the old lady on the head." Once you accept the doctrine that there is not some-thing sacred about human life, and that you can go and get a form filled up by a patient. I can imagine what the situation will be like. You will see the official —I suppose he would be a doctor, but he would not be a very good doctor, because no good doctor would do it—tripping along with his bowler hat. and little brown bag to get the man to sign the form. And from what I know of human nature, in not a few cases the unfortunate person will be pressed to sign the form. And there you have the whole thing.

I believe that this doctrine of putting people out of what is called their misery, for what are thought to be good reasons, may have very serious repercussions on the criminal law of this land. What are the conditions which were suggested in the last Bill as being necessary? They are incurable disease, great pain, soundness of mind. All these are relative. We cannot be certain of them. As the noble Lord, Lord Horder, tells us, a disease which fourteen years ago might have been regarded by doctors as incurable may be curable to-day. Great pain—how can we diagnose that? To what extent is there proof of great pain? And soundness of mind?—in a case of this sort generally the state of mind alternates. Indeed the noble Lord, Lord Horder, said today it alternated between morning and evening, and changed rapidly throughout the course of the day. None of these things can be asserted, and I ask your Lordships to say that the introduction of a Bill would be wrong, no matter what the safeguards might be, because there can be no adequate safeguards where one human being is allowed to start killing another.

There must be no failure to apprehend the truth. Such a Bill would allow murder in certain circumstances; and the confines within which it is allowed can never be so clearly defined that we may not have people stepping outside them. The only safe test to make is this: that it is for the doctors to alleviate pain and suffering, and, following Lord Dawson's doctrine, I apprehend that they do so, even though it means a slight shortening of life, because they look at the quality and not merely at the quantity of life; and that once we depart from that we are on the slippery slope. I hope that I shall never live to see a system of euthanasia introduced into this country.

7.15 p.m.


My Lords, at this late hour I am sure your Lordships will not expect me to deal with all the points made in this interesting debate. My Motion has at any rate brought a number of interesting speeches from almost all the medical members in your Lordships' House, and, if I have done nothing else, I am sure I have rendered your Lordships a service in bringing those noble Lords here this afternoon. Some of them, like the noble Lord, Lord Uvedale, we have seldom the pleasure of hearing, and I hope that after making such an interesting speech this afternoon the noble Lord will feel emboldened to come more often. He was the only one of the medical members of the House who gave me a crumb of comfort. One might perhaps have expected the medical Peers would be a good deal more conservative than other doctors, and it is the undoubted fact that there are over 200 eminent members of the medical profession who are strong supporters of these proposals.


My Lords, may I interpolate that I sit on the Cross Benches?


I do not propose to go into all the points in detail, but I should like to deal with one or two matters. The noble Lord, Lord Haden-Guest, referred to the resolution of the World Medical Association. I think he ought to have pointed out to your Lord-ships that the resolution was not in any sense on all fours with what I have been suggesting this afternoon. The resolution was against the sort of thing practised in Germany and not against voluntary euthanasia, with safeguards as proposed. It was against just the sort of killing by doctors according to their discretion that the Bill put forward by this movement is directed. In any case, the two representatives of this country on the Association voted against the resolution.


My Lords, I think I am right in saying that the resolution was directed equally against the course which the noble Lord is advocating.


I have the terms of the resolution here. There is nothing in it at all about it being voluntary and nothing at all about safeguards. It is perfectly obvious to anyone who has looked at it that what the doctors were trying to prevent was that it should be left completely to the discretion of the doctor. We who are advocating this have always taken the view that it is wrong that the burden should be placed on the doctor. Both those in favour and those who are against are equally animated with the conception of the sanctity of human life and the sanctity of human personality, but we derive different conclusions from the same premises. It is because we who support this proposal feel that human life is so sacred, and human personality, even above life itself, is so sacred, that we say that there ought to be this means of relief, in order that it may be made more reverend, more sacred, than it can be when a person is suffering from a horrible agony which frequently finishes life. Whatever the noble Lord, Lord Haden-Guest, may say, I do not think there are many doctors who have not seen a human being finishing his life in great pain. It is because of that that I brought this Motion before your Lordships this afternoon. I am sorry to hear that the noble and learned Viscount who sits on the Woolsack is so unsympathetic. I thought he might have come a little way in the direction of his distinguished predecessor, whose opinion, I maintain, in spite of the noble Earl, Lord Iddesleigh, was in favour of the practice he described so sympathetically. In view of the circumstances, I do not propose to divide the House, and I ask your Lordships' permission to with-draw ray Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, with-drawn.

House adjourned at twenty-one minutes past seven o'clock.