There has not been such a comprehensive and robust evaluation of the evidence on this issue since the House of Lords Select Committee considered proposals for a change in the law in 2004, and this report is a key addition to the ongoing assisted dying debate.
By carefully examining the evidence, the Commission concluded that the choice of assisted dying could be safely offered to terminally ill people who are suffering at the end of life and likely to die within twelve months, provided that they satisfy particular eligibility criteria (aged 18+, have mental capacity, that it is a voluntary decision and they are not being influenced by others). The Commission does not recommend that chronically ill, disabled or older adults be allowed the option of assistance to die. The Commission also stress that all individuals should be entitled to core rights in end-of-life care.
Dignity in Dying commissioned a YouGov poll of 2,770 adults in the UK found that 61% of the public would like Parliament to debate the issue of Britons currently having to travel abroad for help to die (the British Social Attitude surveys consistently find that around 80% of the public support assisted dying in the UK). Only 12% were opposed to such a debate. The poll also found that only one in ten would feel negatively about their MP if they supported a change in the law to allow assisted dying for terminally ill adults. What this demonstrates to MPs, is that engaging with the debate will not have a negative impact on their electorate’s opinion of them, and that they should feel free to enter into dialogue on this issue.
The legalisation of assisted dying and the current situation of Britons having to travel to Dignitas to die are issues which remain high in the public consciousness. We hope that the Commission’s report will prompt action in Parliament in the form of much needed and balanced debate.