Dignity in Dying advocate an Assisted Dying Bill for the UK based on the Oregon and Washington model, where the dying person takes the life ending medication themselves. It is not comparable to Swiss or Benelux models, which have wider eligibility criteria than terminal illness. In the Benelux countries which allow for voluntary euthanasia a doctor administers medication directly to the patient.
Despite this there is still some confusion over what the proposed Assisted Dying Bill would introduce into UK law.
We still come under criticism for making use of ‘semantics’ to confuse and cover up what would be a far broader law than what we are campaigning for.
Hopefully this blog will give you a clearer insight into our policy on assisted dying.
We campaign for assisted dying for terminally ill adults NOT assisted suicide
Dignity in Dying only advocates a change in the law on assisted dying. This is where terminally ill adults who meet strict upfront criteria and satisfy legal safeguards would have the option to take life-ending medication and die peacefully at home.
Assisted Dying and Assisted Suicide are not the same. There is a clear difference between helping someone to die who is terminally ill and helping someone to die who is not.
• Assisted dying allows the terminally ill person to have a choice over the manner and timing of their imminent death.
• Assisted suicide enables someone who is not dying to choose death over life.
Assisted dying would
• Provide safeguarded choice and control to terminally ill adults and prevent prolonged suffering among these dying adults who want to have choice over how and when they die.
• Ensure that terminally ill adults who have assistance to die do so having met clear pre-determined criteria and have explored all of their alternatives.
Assisted dying would not
• Legalise assisted suicide for people who are not dying (for example disabled people or the elderly).
• Legalise voluntary euthanasia where a doctor administers life-ending medication. Under the Assisted Dying Bill the, person choosing assistance to die would take the final action to end their life by taking a prescribed life-ending medication.
• Require people to have an assisted death. A change in the law would provide people with the option to choose an assisted death if they wish to take it. It would not become standard procedure and assisted deaths would not be ‘prescribed’ to patients. The latest report on the Death with Dignity Act in Oregon shows that, even with the option available, only 0.24% of people choose to take it.
• Legalise a system where the person being directly helped to die is no longer able to make that choice for themselves. This Assisted Dying Bill would only apply to adults with mental capacity, both at the time of their request and at the time of their death.
Opponents of a change in the law in the UK consistently use the terms ‘suicide’ and ‘assisted suicide’ to define the actions of mentally competent, terminally ill adults who request a prescription for life-ending medication from their doctor.
The suffix ‘-cide’ means ‘to kill’ and denotes illegal or egregious behaviour such as ‘homicide’, ‘genocide’ or ‘infanticide’.
At its core, assisted dying would provide legal, safeguarded choice to terminally ill adults who are going to die imminently; with a prognosis of six months or less to live.
The British public supports assisted dying NOT assisted suicide
80% of the British public agree that a person with a terminal and painful illness from which they will die should be allowed assistance to die. However, only 45% agree that a person with an incurable and painful illness from which they will not die should be allowed assistance to die.
The British public are overwhelmingly in support of the change in the law we propose, but do not support the more extreme assisted suicide position, which we do not take.
• Our policy on assisted dying aims to bring greater control and choice to terminally ill, mentally competent adults within strict legal safeguards that have been proven to work in Oregon and Washington. We do not campaign for assisted suicide or voluntary euthanasia.
• If an assisted dying law is passed only the terminally ill, with a prognosis of six months or less to live will be eligible. This means that no more would die, but fewer would suffer.
• 80% of the British population support a change in the law to allow terminally ill mentally competent adults the right to an assisted death.
If you agree with our policy on assisted dying, and can see that a change in the law is needed in order to prevent unnecessary suffering at the end of life, please help us to make the choice available to those that need it. Your support can make a real difference to the success of the campaign.