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Ian Paisley battled back from death's door, son tells MPs

By Erinn Kerr

Ian Paisley welcomed Parliament's rejection of a law to allow assisted dying and has revealed how his own father battled back from a life-threatening illness.

The DUP MP shared a personal story about the former First Minister's fight for life during the five-hour debate on Friday.

Speaking at Westminster, Mr Paisley said he wanted Parliament to pass laws that gave people a "reason to live", not laws which "facilitated dying".

During his emotional speech, Mr Paisley explained how medical staff had told his family to prepare for Ian Paisley Sr's death 18 months before he actually passed away.

He said: "A year ago my father passed away, and tomorrow we will celebrate his anniversary. Eighteen months prior to that, he had been in hospital.

"He had suffered a very serious illness and ended up on a life-support machine.

"On his fifth day on that life-support machine, the doctors indicated to us, 'Look, your father's probably going to die in the early hours of the morning'.

"That night, amazingly, my dad sat up in bed and demanded a cup of tea.

"He went on to enjoy another hearty year, and we went on to enjoy his presence for another year."

He called on the House to "take stock" and "say no" in his father's voice.

Mr Paisley told the Belfast Telegraph that he did not plan to make such a personal statement.

"I had no intention of telling such a personal story before the debate, but as it went on I realised most of the points I wanted to make had already been made and I decided that sharing this story would do more good than repeating facts and figures," he added.

"It was very interesting to hear all the different arguments but I wanted to make the point that no one really knows exactly when someone's time on earth is up.

"It is not for us to decide."

Some 118 MPs voted in favour and 330 against plans to allow some terminally ill adults to end their lives with medical supervision. 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.

Mr Paisley said he was pleased such an "overwhelming" majority had rejected the plans.

Ian Paisley's speech can be viewed on YouTube by searching for Paisley Speaks During Debate on Assisted Dying Bill

Assisted dying debate: the speech in full

I believe that Parliament should be in the business of giving people reason to live, not of creating laws that facilitate and accelerate people’s death. I say that with respect to those who have today given their own personal, trying and solemn examples, but I believe that the balance is all wrong in this Bill and that is why I will vote against it.

We all know that it is not necessary to change the law in order to have dignity in death. That has existed from the very beginning of time. Indeed, it is in the natural order of things.

I understand what pastoral care is like. I grew up in a manse. People would come every day to my father’s manse and witness people with illnesses and sicknesses who needed to be comforted. I also have a more personal story to tell.

A year ago to this day, my father passed away, and tomorrow we will celebrate his anniversary. Eighteen months prior to that, he had been in hospital. He had suffered a very serious illness and ended up on a life-support machine. On his fifth day on that life-support machine, the doctors indicated to us, “Look, your father’s probably going to die in the early hours of the morning. You should prepare yourselves and be ready for the eventuality.”

We did. We prepared his funeral. We sat as a family and talked about what we should do over the next few days. That night, amazingly, my dad sat up in bed and demanded a cup of tea.

He went on to enjoy another hearty year, and we went on to enjoy his company and lovely presence for another year. We planned his funeral with him, and it was a very different plan — it was noted publicly for being very different — from ours.

Some people may say, “We have a right to do this and to tell people, ‘It’s now time: this person is now a burden on society’,” but that is not what we as legislators and as a Parliament should be doing.  We should be taking stock and saying, in his voice, “No.”

Belfast Telegraph

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