Former nurse urges Golders Green MP to back assisted suicide bill

A former nurse who was awarded an OBE for services to palliative care, is supporting a bill to allow terminally ill patients to have an assisted death.

Harriet Copperman, 67, of Diploma Avenue, East Finchley, lobbied her MP Mike Freer on Wednesday of last week after a draft bill was launched the day before.

Until this year, she was on the steering group of Healthcare Professionals for Assisted Dying (HPAD), an action group which supports the bill.

Ms Copperman said: “I spent all my time in care not being in favour of assisted dying.

“While palliative care can help a small population of people, I have come to appreciate assisted dying can be a part of palliative care.”

She said that she had already been leaning towards this view before she joined HPAD, which was set up by terminally ill childhood friend, Dr Ann McPherson, who died last year.

Although Mr Freer, MP for Finchley and Golders Green, expressed sympathy with the bill’s arguments, he said he was not ready to support it.

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He said: “The issue is very difficult because of genuine concerns to protect those who may feel pressured to end their life.

“A friend of mine who was terminally ill committed suicide and a few months later there was a medical breakthrough and new treatments became available that could have prolonged his life.

“It is always a worry that allowing and facilitating suicide could precede a medical breakthrough and that weighs heavily on my mind.”

Rev Ian Tutton, of Hampstead Garden Suburb Free Church, spoke out against the bill. He said: “It’s not for us to decide when life should be taken away. If we put more effort into finding cures for conditions rather than short-circuiting the process in this particular way, it would be more beneficial.”

Glenda Jackson, MP for Hampstead and Kilburn, also opposed the bill: “The issue is dignity in dying. Surely everybody wants to have a dignified death. Most people want to die at home. We need to support hospice and palliative care so we can deliver this.”

Following a consultation, due to end on November 20, Lord Falconer QC will raise the bill as a Private Members Bill in the House of Lords early next year.