Patients should be allowed to choose to end life, says MP

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Patients who are terminally ill and want to die should be helped to die, Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt has said.

Ms Mordaunt spoke out in favour of 'assisted dying' in certain cases as she took up a position on an influential body set up to discuss the issue.

She said there were some circumstances where it may be justified to help people end their lives. Ms Mordaunt said: 'I've got a fairly open mind on this issue.

'I think the existing situation is unsatisfactory.

'You've got, for example, a 25-year-old woman who, because she cannot have children, wants to end her life and decides to do so by drinking poison, and by leaving a letter - a living will - she can say she does not want to be revived.

'But then you can have a terminally-ill person who has to raise funds to travel overseas in order to commit suicide.

'So at the moment there's a problem with the status quo and that's why it needs looking at.

'My personal view is that assisted dying should be allowed for the terminally-ill.'

Ms Mordaunt's comments come after she was invited to be part of the Commission on Assisted Dying - an independent group which has been tasked with looking at what kinds of safeguards could be put in place to ensure assisted dying is not abused if it is ever introduced to the UK.

The group will hold discussions and hear evidence for a year, and then report back to the government.

Ms Mordaunt said: 'The commission has come about because there has been so much focus on assisted dying recently and high-profile cases, with people being prosecuted, and people want and need clarity on this.

'In terms of what the group's doing, it's looking at if this were to happen, how could we have the safeguards in place to make it work?

'Safeguards could be things like setting up panels in hospitals which would review cases and make sure everything's been done properly, and the patient's not under pressure from the their family, or the incorrect decision has been made by a doctor.

'We'll be hearing evidence from lots of different people, including people who've wanted to take their life in the past.

'Then we'll make recommendations in a year's time.

'At the end of this, the commission could decide that the status quo is actually the best scenario or decide otherwise.'

The commission, which has been funded by the novelist Sir Terry Pratchett, who has Alzheimer's, met for the first time this week.

It will take its findings back to the government who will decide if an assisted dying policy should be implemented in the UK.