FAQs Share » View all FAQ categories. Why change the law on assisted dying? Why do you not advocate the option of an assisted death for non-terminally ill people or people lacking mental competence? Will legalising assisted dying create a “slippery slope”? Are vulnerable people threatened by a change in the law? Don’t terminally ill people need better care, not the option of an assisted death? How can you give someone the right to kill another person? Will patients trust their doctors if we change the law? Is assisted dying compatible with medical ethics? Aren’t some disabled groups opposed to a change in the law? Why change the law on assisted dying? People want choice and control at the end-of-life. Opinion poll, after opinion poll has shown the overwhelming majority of people believe that terminally ill adults should be able to end their suffering, within strict legal safeguards, if they feel it has become unbearable. This is a choice that the majority of us will thankfully never have to exercise. However, it is a choice that most of us do not want to deny to others. Ultimately, all terminally ill people should have access to good quality patient centred end-of-life care and treatment. But despite this, and as acknowledged by the British Medical Association, even the best palliative care cannot ensure that all dying patients have what they consider to be a dignified death. There is a lot of evidence showing that fear of the process of dying is alleviated when people have the right to ask for a medically assisted death if their suffering becomes more than they can bear. Currently, the law is failing such people, many of whom seek to take control of the manner and timing of their deaths in other ways. While some make an Advance Decision to refuse medical treatment others take more desperate, and dangerous, measures such as attempting violent suicide – this could and should be changed. As has been shown in other countries, like Belgium and Oregon in the United States, assisted dying legislation and palliative care can develop alongside each other. A more compassionate approach to end-of-life decision making, which promotes choice whilst protecting vulnerable people, is possible. Why do you not advocate the option of an assisted death for non-terminally ill people or people lacking mental competence? A change in the law is needed to help some people overcome the suffering caused by the process of dying. It is about giving terminally ill adults choice and control over how they die, so that they may have what they consider to be a “good” death. If a terminally ill adult decides to have an assisted death, it must be their decision. Therefore, they must fully understand the consequences of their decision and be confident that it is in their best interest – this requires mental competence. Will legalising assisted dying create a “slippery slope”? Research published in the Journal of Medical Ethics in 2007 found absolutely no evidence of a slippery slope in the Netherlands or Oregon. The current UK law does not protect the vulnerable. Evidence shows us that assisted dying is already taking place in the UK without any safeguards at all. Assisted dying is being carried out by doctors and relatives, even without evidence that the assisted death was in line with the individuals’ wishes. It would be far better to regulate assisted dying with safeguards to ensure it was the person’s own choice. Safeguards would protect the vulnerable but allow people like Debbie Purdy the choice of a dignified death. Lord Falconer’s Assisted Dying Bill would apply to mentally competent, terminally ill people only – not people who are elderly, disabled, not mentally competent, or under the age of 18. Are vulnerable people threatened by a change in the law? Vulnerable people are more at risk now because there are no safeguards. Any change in the law must have safeguards at its centre. Lord Falconer’s Assisted Dying Bill has safeguards to protect the vulnerable. These safeguards would afford better protection against back-street suicide and mercy killings than we have at the moment. We need to change the law to bring assisted dying into the open and subject to scrutiny. Evidence shows us that assisted dying is already taking place in UK without any safeguards at all. Assisted dying is being carried out by doctors and relatives, even without evidence that this in line with the individual’s wishes. In contrast research published in the Journal of Medical Ethics in 2007 found absolutely no evidence that vulnerable people were put at risk as a result of a change in the law in the Netherlands or Oregon. Legalising assisted dying would ensure strict legal safeguards are in place to make sure that assisted dying is only carried out under the wishes of the mentally competent, terminally ill adult concerned. Dignity in Dying only supports assisted dying if it is the patient’s informed choice. Don’t terminally ill people need better care, not the option of an assisted death? Terminally ill people should have access to better care as well as the option of an assisted death if their suffering becomes unbearable. Whilst palliative care providers in both the voluntary sector and the NHS do excellent work, palliative care cannot relieve everyone’s suffering, and some people will still want medical help to die. Leading palliative care specialists acknowledge that palliative care cannot relieve all suffering, as have the British Medical Association, the National Council for Palliative Care, Macmillan Cancer Relief and the House of Lords Select Committee on the Assisted Dying for the Terminally Ill Bill. This is backed up by research from the UK and evidence from the United States which shows that some patients will want an assisted death despite palliative care. Furthermore, assisted dying is complementary to palliative care. It would only be an option once palliative care had been explored. On average 88% of patients who have used Oregon’s assisted dying law have been enrolled in hospice care. Research shows that rather than causing damage to palliative care provision, assisted dying laws can stimulate its development and practice. How can you give someone the right to kill another person? This is not the doctor’s right to kill, it is the patient’s right to decide about their own life. We only support assisted dying if it is the patient’s informed choice. If a mentally competent, terminally ill adult decides he or she wants to die because of unbearable suffering, the law does not forbid them from taking their own life – suicide is not a crime. However, in the later stages of terminal illness people are often physically weak and do not have the means or the medical knowledge to bring about a peaceful death which is why there must be the option of medical assistance. Will patients trust their doctors if we change the law? People want an adult relationship with their doctor where their choices are respected. Under current laws terminally ill patients who have exhausted all alternatives feel abandoned by doctors who are unable to help them at the end of their lives. Evidence from Oregon and the Netherlands shows that assisted dying legislation improves the patient doctor relationship, and increases openness and honesty, and a study in the BMJ looking at seven European countries found the highest level of trust in doctors in the Netherlands. Is assisted dying compatible with medical ethics? Whilst some doctors may not want to help a patient die, others will be willing to assist to end the unnecessary suffering of their patient. They will conclude that it is more harmful to force someone to live their last days in a condition they find unbearable, than it is to respect their autonomy, their dignity and their choice and help them to end their life with dignity and without suffering. However, health professionals who don’t agree for their own personal reasons could choose not to participate, since this is all about respecting choice. With this in mind, Lord Falconer’s Assisted Dying Bill clearly states that no health care professional or provider is under any obligation to take part in physician assisted dying. Aren’t some disabled groups opposed to a change in the law? Some disabled groups are opposed to a change in the law but many disabled people support the campaign for a change in the law that would give terminally ill people the option of an assisted death. The Disability Rights Commission’s own poll showed 63% of their members supported changing the law. But in any case this is not about Disability, it is about people with a terminal illness. In the Netherlands and Oregon, 90% of those who opt for assistance to die have cancer; they are not disabled. Dignity in Dying campaigns for an assisted dying law based on the legislation in Oregon: which would give the option of an assisted death to terminally ill people only, not disabled people (unless they were terminally ill). There is no evidence from Oregon of any risk to disabled people as a result of the legislation.