On Tuesday (3rd July), the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Choice at the End of Life, in partnership with Dignity in Dying will launch a draft Assisted Dying Bill for consultation via www.appg-endoflifechoice.org.uk.
The consultation builds on the recommendations of the Commission on Assisted Dying, which published its findings in January and was chaired by the former Secretary of State for Justice, Lord Falconer QC.
By consulting the public, stakeholders and politicians, the consultation aims to create a robust Bill that provides the choice of an assisted death to terminally ill mentally competent adults, whilst providing better protection against abuse than the current law.
After the consultation has closed (20th November 2012) and the APPG in partnership with Dignity in Dying has reported, Lord Falconer QC has committed to tabling an assisted dying Bill as a Private Members Bill in the House of Lords.
This Wednesday (4th July) more than 700 Dignity in Dying members, supporters and Patrons will take part in a mass lobby of Parliament at the QEII Conference Centre, Westminster, asking their own MPs to engage with the consultation. Supporters will be addressed by Dignity in Dying Patrons Sir Terry Pratchett and Zoe Wanamaker.
Heidi Alexander MP, Chair of the APPG on Choice at the End of Life said:
“My colleagues in the House of Commons have recently endorsed the non-prosecution of compassionate amateur assistance to die, as set out in the DPP’s guidelines, and this Bill consultation gives us the opportunity to provide the best legal framework possible to make safeguarded assisted dying for terminally ill, mentally competent adults a reality.
“Along with my colleagues in the APPG on Choice at the end-of-life and Dignity in Dying I look forward to beginning the process of putting an end to the current situation where terminally ill adults must either travel abroad to die, attempt to end their lives at home behind closed doors, or continue to suffer unbearably at the end of their lives.?
Sarah Wootton, Chief Executive of Dignity in Dying said:
“There is a clear problem. The current law effectively turns a blind eye to compassionate amateur assistance to die, whilst threatening any healthcare professionals who assist with prosecution. This means that terminally ill people who want control over their death face a number of unpalatable choices: suffer against their wishes, travel abroad to die or ask a loved one to help them die at home.
“As a society we have a responsibility to strive for better. No one wants dying people to suffer unnecessarily; equally no one wants to place vulnerable people in harm’s way. At present we have the worst of both worlds. The time has come to change the law and allow people the choice of an assisted death if they are competent and nearing the end of a terminal illness. A clear and present problem combined with overwhelming public support mean that change is inevitable.
“It is our hope that this consultation will help foster a constructive debate, so that we can create the most robust law possible before a Bill is tabled in Parliament in the New Year.?
Lord Falconer QC said:
“It is for Parliament to move this matter forward. There are different views, but Parliament has got to express through a new Act of Parliament what the right answer for society is. For me the right answer is to allow dying people who are competent and who decide that they want to die to be helped in taking their own life, subject to strict legal safeguards. That was the conclusion reached by the Commission I chaired.
“In the New Year, when we have the recommendations of the consultation, I intend to introduce a Bill into Parliament. The Bill will reflect the conclusions of the Commission, subject to any improvements which emerge from the consultation.?
Sir Terry Pratchett (Dignity in Dying Patron), Heidi Alexander MP (Chair of the APPG), Sarah Wootton (Dignity in Dying CEO), Edward Turner (Dignity in Dying Patron and son of Dr Anne Turner who died at Dignitas in 2006), Brian Pretty (Dignity in Dying Patron and husband of the late assisted dying campaigner Diane Pretty) and Katherine Lennard (terminally ill member of Dignity in Dying) will be delivering the draft Bill to David Cameron at number 10 Downing Street at 2pm on 4th July.
Notes to editor:
About the draft Bill Consultation:
This consultation is being run by the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Choice at the End of Life in partnership with Dignity in Dying.
The APPG on Choice at the End of Life exists to promote greater patient choice at the end of life, particularly over where, when and how one dies. The group believes that mentally competent adults should have the right to refuse treatment, and provided sufficient legal safeguards are in place, the right to an assisted death. Dignity in Dying is a campaigning organisation which supports the aims of the APPG and provides the secretariat to the group.
The APPG and Dignity in Dying will welcome responses from stakeholders, experts, MPs and the general public. Responses can be submitted at www.appg-endoflifechoice.org.uk
About the lobby day:
On 4th July more than 700 Dignity in Dying members, supporters, Patrons, staff and people with personal experience of why we need a change in the law will be lobbying their MPs, asking them to respond to the Bill Consultation. The day will include the Dignity in Dying AGM as well as addresses from Richard Ottaway MP, Heidi Alexander MP, Sir Terry Pratchett and Zoe Wanamaker.
Dignity in Dying:
– Dignity in Dying campaigns for greater choice, control and access to services at the end of life. It advocates providing terminally ill adults with the option of an assisted death, within strict legal safeguards, and for universal access to high quality end-of-life care.
– Dignity in Dying has over 25,000 supporters and receives its funding entirely from donations from the public.
For all Dignity in Dying media enquiries or questions ahead of the debate please contact Jo Cartwright on 020 7479 7737 / 07725433025 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.