Lord Falconer’s Private Members’ Bill, The Assisted Dying Bill, will receive its Second Reading in the House of Lords on Friday 18th of July, when the principles of the Bill will be debated and, subject to opponents, voted on.
Within upfront safeguards, this Bill seeks to legalise the choice of assisted dying for terminally ill adults with six months or less to live. The patient would be provided with life-ending medication that they would have to take themselves and two doctors would have to agree that they met all of the safeguards, including that they had six months or less to live, and had made a clear and settled decision with time to consider all other options.
A YouGov poll out today has found that a large majority of the general public, 73% of adults in Britain, support the proposals in the Bill. Only 13% did not think the Bill should become law, with 13% undecided.
Lord Falconer said:
“The courts have consistently ruled that assisted dying is an issue for Parliament to resolve. The current law which forces some terminally ill people to travel abroad to die or attempt suicide behind closed doors is not fit for purpose, and only Parliament can change the law to allow terminally ill people the choice to end their own suffering within a safeguarded framework.
“The Bill addresses the problems of the current law, which currently forces dying adults and their families to suffer unnecessarily. The Bill would, subject to strict safeguards, allow terminally ill, mentally competent adults to request life-ending medication from a doctor, which the patient would self-administer at a time of their choosing. It would bring clarity to the law, restore public confidence and provide safety and security for terminally ill people, their loved ones and for healthcare professionals.
“Critically, this Bill would protect anyone who doesn’t have a terminal illness, including elderly and disabled people, by not in any way affecting the law that makes it a criminal offence to assist ending or helping them to end their lives. No more people will die as a result of The Assisted Dying Bill, but fewer people will suffer.”
Sarah Wootton, Chief Executive of Dignity in Dying said:
“Dignity in Dying is delighted that assisted dying will be debated in the House of Lords. When a change in the law was last debated in 2006, it was defeated by a wrecking amendment. Since then the problem has become more pronounced and the evidence clearer that you can safely change the law. We are confident that the political ground has shifted and that the 18th of July will go down in history as a significant day in the hard fought journey towards greater patient choice and control at the end of life.
“The current situation is unacceptable. In the absence of a safeguarded law like Lord Falconer proposes, hundreds of terminally ill patients will continue to take decisions to die without adequate safeguards, whether by travelling to Dignitas for assistance, ending their lives themselves, or being illegally helped to die by doctors.
“With other jurisdictions, most notably the US states of Oregon and Washington, showing that assisted dying can be safely legalised and safeguarded, Parliamentarians have a responsibility to do what is right. A bad law applied with common sense and compassion is no match for a compassionate and sensible law applied with rigour and force. Within upfront safeguards, dying people should have choice and control over the manner of their death.”
This Bill has cross party support.
Liberal Democrat Peer Lord Avebury said: “This Bill can save a small but significant group of terminally ill patients from an agonising death. There is no way it could be misused, or that its rigorous safeguards would allow its limited purposes to be widened”.
Crossbench Peer Baroness Murphy said: “As a doctor, the relief of suffering at the end of life and respecting dying patients’ individual sustained wishes about their own care take precedence. I welcome this Bill as an opportunity to clarify a difficult and complex area of current law and allow patients who are terminally ill to make real choices about life’s end.”
Conservative Peer Lord Dobbs said: “The right to life that we all enjoy should also provide the right to a dignified death wherever possible. So long as appropriate and rigorous safeguards are in place, I want to see that right to a dignified death established in law.”
Notes to editor:
All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2,050 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 20th – 21st May 2014. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).
About 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.
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