Assisted Dying Bill- MPs reject right to die law

MPs have rejected plans for a right to die in England and Wales in their first vote on the issue in almost 20 years.

Assisted Dying Bill- MPs reject right to die law
In a free vote in the Commons, 118 MPs were in favour and 330 against plans to allow some terminally ill adults to end their lives with medical supervision.

In a passionate debate, some argued the plans allowed a “dignified and peaceful death” while others said they were “totally unacceptable”.

Pro-assisted dying campaigners said the result showed MPs were out of touch.

Under the proposals, people with fewer than six months to live could have been prescribed a lethal dose of drugs, which they had to be able to take themselves. Two doctors and a High Court judge would have needed to approve each case.

But Sarah Wootton, the chief executive of Dignity in Dying, said it was an “outrage” that MPs had gone against the views of the majority of the public who supported the bill.

A series of high profile and emotionally charged right to die cases have appeared in the courts.

But the response from judges has been clear. As Lord Justice Toulson ruled in the case of Tony Nicklinson: “These are matters for Parliament to decide.”

Now the message from politicians has been an overwhelming rejection of the right to die.

And opinion is not shifting – 74% of MPs voted against this bill compared with 72% back in 1997. The emphatic nature of the result would suggest politicians are unlikely to discuss this again soon.

Campaigners will regroup and point to their own polls showing 82% of the public back assisted dying and calls for change may yet intensify with an ageing population.

The latest proposals were brought before the Commons by Rob Marris, the Labour MP for Wolverhampton South West.

Opening the debate, Mr Marris said the current law did not meet the needs of the terminally ill, families or the medical profession.

He said there were too many “amateur suicides, and people going to Dignitas” and it was time for Parliament to debate the issue because “social attitudes have changed”.

Mr Marris added: “This bill would provide more protection for the living and more choice for the dying.”

Mr Marris said he did not know what choice he would make if he was terminally ill, but said it would be comforting to know that the choice was available.

Euthanasia, which is considered as manslaughter or murder, is illegal under English law.

The Suicide Act 1961 makes it an offence to encourage or assist a suicide or a suicide attempt in England and Wales. Anyone doing so could face up to 14 years in prison. The law is almost identical in Northern Ireland.

There is no specific law on assisted suicide in Scotland, creating some uncertainty, although in theory someone could be prosecuted under homicide legislation.

In a lengthy speech, Labour MP Sir Keir Starmer told MPs about prosecution guidelines he developed in his role as director of public prosecutions, when he had to deal with a number of “right to die” cases, including those of Debbie Purdy and Tony Nicklinson.

But he warned that his guidelines had shortcomings without a change in the law.

He said: “We have arrived at a position where compassionate amateur assistance from nearest and dearest is accepted, but professional medical assistance is not unless you have the means of physical assistance to get to Dignitas.

The British Medical Association, the doctor’s union, opposes all forms of assisted dying whilst the Royal College of Nursing takes a neutral stance.

Ministers accused of failing to keep mental health pledge

A row over spending on mental health in England has broken out after Labour accused the government of failing to honour promises to boost funding.

A row over spending on mental health in England has broken out after Labour accused the government of failing to honour promises to boost fundingFreedom of information requests made by Labour to NHS commissioning bodies in England suggest on average mental health budgets fell in 2015-16.

However, the Department of Health said it rejected the figures and called mental health a government “priority”.

Guidance from NHS England published in December 2014 said funding in 2015-16 should increase “by at least as much” as the increase in overall allocation.

It is part of a wider goal laid out in the NHS five-year plan to put mental health on a par with physical health.

Dr Phil Moore, chairman of the NHS Clinical Commissioners Mental Health Commissioners Network stressed that CCGs understood the importance of investing in mental health, but financial pressures may leave no room for increased spend in any one area.

He said commissioners were also looking into different ways of funding mental health including using the voluntary sector and more community schemes.

“It is important to note that many CCGs are not simply looking to invest more in the same models of care that have failed in the past.”

The figures collected by Labour suggest that 50 of the 130 CCGs who responded plan to reduce the proportion of the budget they allocate to mental health for this financial year.

On average the figures suggest that in 2015/16 CCGs are planning to allocate 10% of their budgets to mental health, compared with 11% in 2014/15. But NHS England said CCGs would spend 13% of their budgets on mental health this year.

Labour also said there was wide variation between what CCGs had set aside for mental health.

Shadow public health minister Luciana Berger said ministers had repeatedly promised that the amount spent on mental health locally would increase in line with local CCG budgets.

A Department of Health spokesperson said: “We do not recognise these figures – NHS England has shown mental health spending has increased by £400 million this year.

“Mental health is a priority for this government and to say otherwise ignores the fact we have given mental and physical health conditions equal priority in law, we’ve increased central funding by millions of pounds, and introduced the first ever treatment targets which will make sure funding goes to where it’s needed.”

National Living Wage will damage care homes

The National Living Wage could result in a “catastrophic collapse” in the number of care homes, according to the five biggest providers.

 National Living Wage could result in a catastrophic collapse in the number of care homes
In a letter to the chancellor, they say staffing accounts for 60% of the cost of care. The companies said they supported the National Living Wage, but efforts would be needed to rescue the care system.

The government said social care would be considered as part of the spending review later this year.

Under plans announced in the Budget, workers aged over 25 in the UK will be paid a minimum of £7.20 an hour from April next year, rising to £9 by 2020.

Four Seasons Health Care, Bupa, HC-One, Care UK and Barchester said the measure would cost the care sector £1 billion by 2020.

They warned any shortage of care places could put huge pressure on the NHS.

Martin Green, the chief executive of Care England which represents the industry, said: “Without adequate funding to pay for the National Living Wage, the care sector is at serious risk of catastrophic collapse.”

He said there was a “grave and very real possibility” that a provider could fail within the next two years.

Mr Green added: “We want to work with the government to find a fair solution that will ensure the care sector can provide a safe and comfortable environment for older people who live in care homes.”

The UK Homecare Association made a similar warning last month, saying services to care for people in their own homes would become “unviable”.

A government spokesman said: “The National Living Wage will benefit hundreds of thousands of care workers who will see their pay increase.

“The overall costs of providing social care will be considered as part of the spending review later this year and we are working with the care sector to understand how the changes will affect them.”

Drug firms accused of overcharging by CMA

Pfizer and Flynn Pharma have been accused by the Competition and Markets Authority of charging “excessive and unfair” prices for an anti epilepsy drug.

Pfizer and Flynn Pharma have been accused by the Competition and Markets Authority of charging excessive and unfair prices for an anti-epilepsy drug.
Phenytoin sodium capsules, used by 50,000 people in Britain, are made by Pfizer and sold by Flynn.

When Pfizer made the drug under its Epanutin brand name, the NHS spent about £2.3 million on the drug, the CMA said. This amount soared to £50 million in 2013.

The CMA said Pfizer sold UK distribution rights to Flynn in 2012, but continued to make and supply the drug to the company.

This is a provisional report, with allegations made by the Competition and Markets Authority. The companies now have a chance to give formal responses and a final ruling may not be made until next year.

But it comes at a time of intense debate about NHS finances, as patient demand and the cost of treatment rise faster than budget increases. NHS England is grappling with the need for ambitious efficiency savings. It has been under fire for reducing the number of treatments available to patients through the Cancer Drugs Fund.

So today’s provisional findings, with renewed scrutiny of drug spending, are the last thing the pharmaceutical industry needs.

It was after this deal that prices rose, said the watchdog in a provisional finding.

“The CMA’s findings on dominance and abuse are provisional and no conclusion can be drawn at this stage that there has, in fact, been any breach of competition law. We will carefully consider any representations from Pfizer and Flynn Pharma before deciding whether the law has been infringed.,” said Ann Pope, CMA senior director of anti trust enforcement.

Companies can be fined as much as 10% of annual sales for abusing a dominant position in a market, depending on the seriousness of the abuse.

Pfizer and Flynn can now supply their own views and evidence before the watchdog makes a decision, it said.

“Ensuring a sustainable supply of our products to UK patients is of paramount importance to Pfizer and was at the heart of our decision to divest the product,” said Pfizer in a statement. “Pfizer is co-operating fully with the CMA’s ongoing investigation.”