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

Tidworth’s MP, Danny Kruger, argues that assisted dying should not be legalised as he “cannot imagine a law that would enable assisted dying to be safe.”

Speaking to the Advertiser, the chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Dying Well, which opposes assisted dying becoming law, said that he wants to see greater investment in hospices and palliative care to support those coming to the end of their lives.

“What we want to see is increased investment from the government in the hospice network and palliative care in the NHS,” he said. “It should be a core part of health and social care and we estimate there are hundreds of thousands of people a year who die who should have had better care than they did.

“There’s an absolute moral injustice going on at the moment and that’s what we need to fix, rather than legislating for assisted dying.”

Danny launched the group earlier this year “to present an alternative view” on assisted dying, following speculation a new bill would be introduced to legalise the practice.

 “Sure enough, a bill now is in Parliament to change the law,” he said, “and even if that doesn’t get anywhere there’s sure to be another so it’s fairly necessary that we do this.”

He argues that the current arrangement protects vulnerable people, and keeps them safe from pressure to end their own lives.

“The heart of it is that it is impossible to design a system that legalises assisted suicide that does not put vulnerable people at risk,” Danny said. “Even though in some cases you can understand why some people would want to terminate their lives early, the difficulty is that the law which would enable that would be very swiftly expanded to include other groups.

“Once you have conceded the moral and legal principle that it is acceptable for the NHS to prescribe lethal drugs to one group of individuals then the argument immediately arises that other people should have this right as well.”

He highlighted figures from the Netherlands, where assisted dying has been legal since 2002, that 4.4 per cent of all deaths in the country were from the practice in 2017. Since then, there have been calls from some to extend the bill to those over 70 who want to their own lives for any reason, but the law has not been changed.

“If assisted dying was legalised, what you would get is what you have in Holland and Belgium where there is pressure to expand the scope,” Danny said. “The main reason for objecting is that it would become an expected option for everybody. We’re trying to safeguard the most vulnerable rather than facilitate choice for a very small number of people who want it at the moment.”

He says that he ‘completely understands’ the position of those who want to legalise assisted dying, and “could imagine being in that position.”

“I’m afraid I can’t see a law that could be designed safely and the law that is currently proposed isn’t safe, and would be very quickly undermined or expanded, in my view.”

He rejected Kit’s arguments that the current system is unfair, and was driving people to travel abroad for assisted dying procedures.

“Certainly, if you can’t do it legally here then some people will do it elsewhere, but there’s nothing we can or should do to try and prevent that. I think that just because it’s legal elsewhere, and that some people travel to do it at some expense and inconvenience to themselves, doesn’t mean that is any sort of reason that we should do it here.

“Equally, the argument that the expense of travelling to Dignitas is some form of discrimination that we should work against by enabling it here is one I don’t accept. I don’t believe that if richer people are able to do something which is illegal is a reason to legalise it.”

He instead argued that the current system had “the right balance” with deterrence, and limited consequences.

Danny said: “What I do think is that it is appropriate in the very, very small number of cases where people have been assisting the suicide of a loved one that prosecutors should be very, very sensitive to what has happened and that is invariably what happens in this country. The law deters assisted suicide but doesn’t necessarily punish it when it happens.”

What he and the group he leads would like to see is a boosting of the hospice and palliative care system, arguing that the current system for end of life care is too medicalised.

“We basically think the business of looking after people who are in any way infirm is through drugs and medical treatment so we focus overwhelmingly on hospitals and to a lesser degree on primary care,” Danny said. “We invest in hospitals and think that because we have people in white coats in buildings full of machines that it’s the best way, but that’s not how most people want to die.

“Most people want to die at home, and hospices are where they should be if they need medical support, not in a hospital. But hospices are, I’m afraid, the poor relation in our health system.”

He said that palliative care facilities were “chronically underfunded”, and that more support should be brought forward to enable hospices to deliver even greater care. Danny argues that advances made in palliative care since its origins in the late 1960s mean it is a better alternative for support than assisted dying.

“Palliative care is quite a new specialism and something the UK leads on, with hospices being a British invention. We have made enormous strides to improve the lives of those in their last weeks and months in the past decades, particularly through pain management.

“It is now possible in almost all cases to largely eliminate the physical pain that people suffer as they die, or feel that they will suffer. We’ve got a very good hospice network and very good pain management but we don’t have universal coverage and adequate, sufficient provision of those services.”

“Your experience of death will vary largely on your socioeconomic status, and that’s what is unacceptable. What we are saying is that before we even consider assisted suicide, we should be improving our end of life care.”