MP says current law on assisted dying robbed him of time with his father

A Labour MP whose father took his own life says the current rules on assisted dying robbed them of time together and the law needs to change.

In a moving interview, Paul Blomfield told Sky News' Sophy Ridge on Sunday programme that he wants to see a "change in the law which gives people choice".

Under current legislation, people with terminal illnesses cannot have help in taking their own lives, and family and friends who help them do so - or even are aware of their plans - can be prosecuted.

Mr Blomfield said banning assisted dying made life "miserable" both for those who are suffering terminal illness but also their loved ones.

The Sheffield Central MP shared the story of his elderly father Harry, who died by suicide aged 87 after being diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer.

He explained how he received a phone call more than eight years ago informing him that Harry had taken his own life.

Mr Blomfield, 69, said that had the law been different they could have discussed what was going on with Harry together.

Tearfully, he said: "He could have talked to us. We could have planned together. He would probably have lived longer.

"I think he took the decision to go prematurely because he wanted to act while he still could."

'He had a good life'

Mr Blomfield spoke about his father's life, growing up in poverty and becoming an RAF pilot.

"He had a good life and he enjoyed it," he said.

"He was a great father. He was a very private person but even so I think he would want me to talk about his death because I know he always believed in giving people choice.

"In a sense, that should have given me an indication of what he might do after he had a terminal diagnosis but I didn't really factor it in."

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Mr Blomfield says Harry remained "positive" after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer, and so the news of his death was a "shock".

The MP says the diagnosis itself was a "shock for him, and it was for us".

Currently, under the Suicide Act 1961, anyone convicted of assisting a person to take their own life can be punished with up to 14 years in prison.

'The law drives people to take very desperate measures'

Mr Blomfield said: "The law prevents people having choice at the end of their life and it drives people to take very desperate measures, like my father."

He added that a lot of the discussion on assisted dying should move to what the law "already does" to people - and the "misery that it causes".

He hopes for a change in the law one day, and said that a "sensible and balanced approach" would be to allow assisted dying in cases where someone has six months to live with a terminal diagnosis, confirmed by doctors.

A study by YouGov last year found that almost three quarters of Britons (73%) think the law should be changed to allow doctors to assist in the suicide of someone suffering from a terminal illness.

However support for such a move in parliament has lagged behind public attitudes.

A Ministry of Justice spokeswoman said: "Our sympathies remain with the families and loved ones affected by these deeply upsetting cases.

"Any change to the law in an area of such sensitivity and importance is for individual MPs to consider rather than a decision for government."

:: Anyone feeling emotionally distressed or suicidal can call Samaritans for help on 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.org in the UK. In the US, call the Samaritans branch in your area or 1 (800) 273-TALK.