THE announcement by the Prime Minister that Southend-on-Sea is to become a city following the death of Sir David Amess was a fitting tribute to a man who had spent much of his Parliamentary career advocating the case for the town he represented.

Over recent days, many tributes have been paid to Sir David noting his passion and commitment for a number of causes. This passion was evident in a speech he made six years ago in September 2015 when legislation to enable assisted dying was last debated in Parliament.

He concluded by saying: “We applaud the medical profession whose very work is to help people to live. We all came into politics to help improve people’s lives. I, along with all colleagues, want to assist people to live, so I urge the House to reject this Bill.”

The House of Commons voted to defeat the Bill that day by 330 to 118 with many of those present swayed by the arguments proposed by MPs from medical backgrounds who said that better investment in palliative and hospice care was needed rather than a change in the law.

In the coming days this issue will return to Parliament as Baroness Meacher seeks to bring forward legislation which will allow assisted dying.

Or, in the words of some opponents of the Bill, it will enable state-approved euthanasia.

Previous attempts at changing legislation have argued that such a move would offer empowerment to the dying and increase choice for those with life limiting conditions on how to end their lives.

But the impact of enabling such choice has consequences which we have seen elsewhere in countries which have already gone down this road. In Belgium and the Netherlands, where assisted dying laws were passed under the banner of enabling choice for those with terminal conditions, assisted deaths are now legal on the basis of mental illness, learning disability and autism. Is it any wonder that of the 12 organisations representing disabled people in the UK none of them supports an Assisted Dying Bill?

As the Paralympian Gold Medallist Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson has said: “Life is hard enough for disabled people. We don’t need a law that would effectively invite us to line up our wheelchairs on a cliff edge and push ourselves off.”

Alongside disability campaigners, some of the strongest voices in opposition continue to come from hospice workers and palliative care specialists. One consultant working in Belfast put it this way: “Were the Assisted Dying Bill to be made law, every person with a life-limiting condition would be under pressure to consider killing themself, just when they were at their most vulnerable and scared.

“Inevitably there would be many people who would take this option because they saw themselves as a burden, had misplaced fears, felt a hinderance on loved ones or, worse, were pressured to do so.”

When Parliamentarians come to debate this issue in the days ahead, they should reflect not only on the voices of the disabled and those in palliative care but also recall the words of Sir David Amess and assist people to live.

L The Reverend Arun Arora is the vicar of St Nicholas’ Church in Durham