A top legal expert has urged MPs to vote against the assisted dying bill when the draft legislation goes before the House of Commons on 11 September, warning the proposed changes could increase the risk of suicide among vulnerable people. Lord Carlile QC also told IBTimes UK that he opposed the bill on ethical grounds and because the current system "works better".
"I am opposed to the principle of allowing doctors or anybody else to deliberately kill patients. The current system works better in which there is a therapeutic basis for the prescription of any drugs -- for example, morphine -- and the doctrine of double effect works well," he argued.
The Liberal Democrat peer and barrister, who works out of the 9-12 Bell Yard chambers, added: "If we introduce this legislation, we will be raising the risks of vulnerable people wishing to commit suicide because they feel that they are saving trouble for their families or to avoid financial worries, and there is the potential for undue influence."
The private members' bill, tabled by Labour MP Rob Marris, would introduce a "conscience clause", which would mean doctors and nurses would not have to be involved in the assisted dying.
The proposed law would also allow the terminally ill to be given a deadly dose of drugs, but the patients would have to have six months or less left to live and two doctors would have to sign the procedure off.
However, Carlile has argued that these safeguards "fall short of what is acceptable". The bill is effectively a re-run of Lord Falconer's efforts to get his assisted dying bill through parliament in 2014.
Campaign group Dignity in Dying have welcomed Marris' bill and urged MPs to vote in favour of it.
"We believe that, subject to strict upfront safeguards, the law should allow terminally ill, mentally competent adults to request life-ending medication from a doctor. The dying patient would then have the choice to self-administer that medication at a time that was right for them," the group said in a statement.
"A change in the law on assisted dying would not lead to more deaths, rather it would lead to less suffering for those dying people who want the choice to control how and when they die."
But the bill has faced opposition from the likes of the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, who described the proposal as "legal and ethical Rubicon" in The Observer. Meanwhile, Tory MP Nus Gahni wrote in IBTimes UK that she would back the legislation.
"This bill, which contains stringent safeguards, offers a choice to those with a terminal illness who wish to end their lives. It is not for me, or anyone, to make that choice for them, but it is in my power to give them that choice," she said.