Thu, 21 Feb 2019
NEWBURY MP Richard Benyon said he has taken a step towards supporting assisted dying in the UK.
He was speaking after hearing emotional testimony from members of the West Berkshire Dignity in Dying group on Saturday, February 2.
Mr Benyon listened intently as Sara Fenton recounted how she had accompanied husband Keith to the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland, with their children Edward and Charlotte, “so that he could have the peaceful and dignified death he deserved and was desperate for”.
Mr Fenton was dying from Huntington’s disease.
Lesley Close then told how she accompanied her brother John to the clinic in 2003 when he was dying of motor neurone disease.
Both told how taking back control had given their loved ones peace and the chance to say goodbye.
After receiving a petition of 660 signatures in favour of the campaign, Mr Benyon said how moved he had been and added that he was “now on a journey” on the issue.
On the one hand, he said, his Christian faith pointed him towards palliative care and maintaining the status quo.
But he added: “I’ve been incredibly affected, not only by your stories, but also by personal experience.”
Mr Benyon revealed he had personally known Robin Cavendish, who was paralysed by polio as a young newlywed and who – after a long and full life – went on to choose assisted dying over a traumatic death.
The tale was the subject of the 2017 film Breathe, directed by Lord of the Rings star Andy Serkis.
Mr Benyon said of Robin Cavendish: “I knew him. He took control of his death and broke the law.”
Mr Benyon said: “I'm now on journey on this one. There are those for whom it will always be wrong, but, for the majority of us there must be a way forward.
“But there must be adequate safeguards. In that respect I’ve been nudged by the arguments today.”
He said the Dignity in Dying campaign “seems to offer a way forward because it would provide safeguards and securities, ring fenced”.
Mr Benyon concluded: “When the issue comes before Parliament – as it surely will – I will bear in mind the arguments I’ve heard today.
“If the legislation is sensible and something I can work with I will be very happy to support it.”
Afterwards, Mrs Fenton said: “It was incredibly encouraging to hear Richard say that he felt there could be a place for an assisted dying law in the UK, if it didn’t go to any extreme either way.
“It is extremely encouraging that Mr Benyon is listening to his constituents, keeping an open mind and seems to be moving in the right direction.”