Record number of peers to debate Assisted Dying Bill

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By Julie Etchingham, ITV News presenter

It was a storyline which gripped viewers of Coronation Street like no other.

In January ten million viewers watched as Hayley Cropper who was suffering from terminal cancer, took her own life, gulping down a glass of lethal drugs while her husband's heart broke beside her.

Hayley pushed her husband away as she did it - for him to assist her would have broken the law.

There can have been few dry eyes as the scene unfolded - and very few who wouldn't have considered what they might do and think in a similar situation.

It may feel a million miles from the cobbles of Coronation St and the nation's sofas, but this Friday in the House of Lords this very issue will be the focus of an historic debate.

Labour Peer Lord Falconer's Assisted Dying Bill proposes giving terminally ill patients with less than six months to live the right to request an assisted death - by lethal drugs prescribed by and taken in the presence of a doctor.

The patient would have to have a settled intent to die, be of sound mind and two doctors would have to approve.

Such a change in the law would be a seismic shift in Britain - and the idea divides people passionately. Already more than 100 peers have asked to speak at the debate - the biggest number ever on any subject.

Read: Corrie actress pleased Hayley's story has sparked debate

The questions it raises go to the heart of what we think of human suffering, what we think of free will, how our rights as individuals sit alongside what is right for society. It could change what it means to be a doctor. It could change how we view disability and illness. It would mean that state no longer condemns in every circumstance, assisting another's death.

More: Large majority of Britons support assisted dying

On 'Tonight' , on the eve of the Lords' debate - we hear many passionate and compassionate voices for and against.

We hear from terminally ill patients - one who dearly wishes to end his suffering from motor neurone disease; from another who couldn't be further from wanting such an option.

We hear from the US state of Oregon, on whose law on Assisted Dying Lord Falconer's bill is modelled. And experts lining up on either side of the argument debating face-to-face.

On the eve of the Lords' debate on no less a matter of life and death, watch 'Tonight' - Assisted Dying: For and Against' - at 7.30pm.

Read: UK law around assisted death of terminally ill 'broken' says Lord Falconer