A NORTHUMBERLAND MP has relived his “frightening” brush with death while calling for revised guidelines on assisted suicide.
Hexham’s Guy Opperman said his collapse in the House of Commons last year and subsequent surgery to remove a brain tumour had made him think deeply about life and death situations.
And while he was lucky and recovered, he said it was not right that those not so fortunate felt they had to travel to Switzerland to end their lives.
His comments came amid a backbench-led debate on issues surrounding assisted suicide, focusing on guidance issued two years ago by Director of Public Protections Keir Starmer QC over when it is in the public interest to press charges. MPs agreed without a vote to endorse Mr Starmer’s “realistic and compassionate” guidelines.
Mr Opperman, 46, told MPs: “During the Budget debate last year, I collapsed in the central lobby of the House of Commons. It was not – I assure honourable colleagues – the Budget that made me ill.
“It was a tumour the size of a small fist in the left part of my brain.”
“I was taken to St Thomas’ Hospital where an A&E doctor advised me that I required a craniotomy to remove the meningioma in my brain.
“It was extremely frightening and I was in a position that I was advised as to the likelihood of death, paralysis, loss of speech, sight and so much more.
“It was a week before I had my operation. I was one of the lucky ones. And I survived with a few scars.”
He added: “However, I had to face up to the possibility that I might not have been so lucky and I had a week to contemplate that situation. It made me think what might have been and you come back to a simple issue which is at the heart of this entire debate, I suggest, which is to whom does your life belong?
“And I suggest your life belongs to the individual themselves.”
Mr Opperman went on: “It is for those who are not so lucky as I was to make their choices as to how they live their lives – and simply because they cannot take those choices does not mean that we in Parliament should also deny them any choice.
“It upsets me tremendously that it is the state that prescribes that it knows best.
“And it cannot be right that individual members of the public in this country are prevented from doing something in this country, but are able to go to Dignitas in Switzerland and die in the way of their choice.”
Mr Opperman stressed that everybody accepted the “great need for very strong protections” and the need for palliative care – but warned “that is not enough”.
“I suggest that the principle of clear self-determination is surely at the core of any concept of human rights,” he said.
The MP also spoke about TV executive Geraldine ‘Mo’ McClelland, 61, who took her life at Dignitas last December following an unsuccessful battle with cancer as several of her friends watched the debate.
Mr Opperman called for proper consultation on assisted suicide, adding: “There are many who do not have self-determination because of their disability and their illness.
“Such people need to have help to escape from their imprisonment and they want to know that individual friends and family will not be prosecuted.”