This piece is part of the Advertiser's debate on assisted dying. Here, Kit Malthouse argues in favour of its legalisation. For Danny Kruger's argument against, click here. For more context, and to have your say, click here.

Andover’s MP, Kit Malthouse, argues allowing end of life choice is the “compassionate and loving thing” to do as a new assisted dying bill makes its way through parliament.

Speaking to the Advertiser, the former chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Choice at the End of Life, which supports assisted dying becoming law, said giving people diagnosed with a terminal illness a choice over their lives improves their quality of life at the end.

He said: “When you get a terrible diagnosis, you become aware of what your death is going to be like, and the fear of what you might go through is helped enormously by knowing you might have the choice to end it before you get there. People say that knowing they have that choice means they can get on with enjoying what life they have left as they can, if they want to, avoid that horrible eventuality.”

Kit said he became involved in the campaign for the legalisation of assisted dying through personal experience.

“I’ve been a very long supporter of assisted dying, pretty much since my teenage years,” he said. “That was born of family experience in that we had a family member who died of multiple sclerosis and my horror at seeing the nature and manner of his decline, and death, made me think about the nature of our death, and the choices we might have in those very extreme and awful circumstances to determine the manner and place of our own end.”

“I decided pretty early on if I were in that kind of situation, or facing a death that would involve awful agony and degradation, then I would at least want the choice for myself. And if I wanted that choice for myself, then I wanted it for everybody else.”

He said he had become “firmer and firmer” in his support for those diagnosed with terminal illnesses to have a choice, working with groups such as Dignity in Dying to build the argument for legalising assisted dying. The latest attempt began in the House of Lords on May 26, when Baroness Meacher’s Assisted Dying Bill underwent its first reading.

“I’m not quite sure how far it’s going to get but we will see,” Kit said. “Support is definitely building in parliament, we lost heavily in 2015 but since then the work of campaign groups, and a realisation of the awful situation too many people face, means many have realised this is a way forward.”

He argues the bill is sufficiently safe to prevent ‘a slippery slope’; an expansion of the law and the groups it affects opponents of assisted dying claim will take place once the practice is legalised, saying it will only take place “in very tightly defined circumstances”.

He said concerns more and more people will choose to undertake assisted dying if it is legalised are unfounded, saying it is a matter of choice, and based on laws in other countries where it is legal.

“What legalising assisted dying means is that quite a lot of people who might have the choice don’t take it in the end,” Kit said, “but knowing they can means they can enjoy the few months, or in some cases years, they have left.”

At present, he says those with terminal illnesses who want to end their lives “are forced to do terrible things.”

He discussed the case of Noel Conway, an assisted dying campaigner who chose to have his own ventilator removed by medics after his quality of life deteriorated, leading to him passing away. Removing a ventilator like this does not count as assisted dying.

“Thankfully it [Noel’s death] was relatively swift,” said Kit. “I think events like this are an appalling affront to human compassion and the fact he couldn’t seek assisted death in this country seems inhumane to me.”

He acknowledged options for assisted dying were available in other countries, but that this was ‘unfair’. One of the most well-known is the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland, to which UK travel has generally increased over the past two decades.

“It’s very expensive, and not open to everybody,” Kit said. “One of the moral aspects to this is we do have assisted dying for those who can afford it because we effectively turn a legal blind eye to those who travel to Switzerland. We have a business class dignity in dying, but if you haven’t got £10-15,000 you’re consigned to an agonising death in this country.”

He discussed the local case of Tom Beagly-Spicer, an Overton man who accompanied his mother to Dignitas after she decided to end her own life.

“When you talk to him, it’s very moving and after the dreadful events that they went through, he thought it was the most loving thing he could do for his mum,” Kit said. “I just wish more people didn’t have to go through that experience before realising how important it is. In some ways, it is the most important human right, the most basic choice, the most important anyone will make about their own lives.”

He said that he understood Danny Kruger’s arguments for the provision of better palliative care instead of assisted dying, but said hospices could only do so much, and that a combined approach was better.

“We have a wonderful hospice in Andover,” Kit said, “but no amount of drugs and palliative care can alleviate the pain or method of death for some people. If your death involves being so sedated that you are effectively stripped off all dignity in your last days, then I’m not sure that is an end I would want.

“I understand Danny’s argument about palliative care, but it’s my life. It’s not his decision. He doesn’t get to decide how I end my life in those circumstances, I get to decide that.”

As for now, if Baroness Meacher’s bill does not become law, Kit is looking north for the next step of the campaign for assisted dying, where MSP Liam McArthur lodged a similar bill.

“We may be in a position where Scotland has it but England does it, and that situation would focus minds,” he said. “I think the argument is going against them [opponents of assisted dying] so hopefully, at some point in the near future, we will get some change in the law.”