Sarah Wootton, Chief Executive of Dignity in Dying, said:
“Professor Paul Cosford is one of a growing number of senior figures in medicine and politics who are convinced that the time is now to look again at the UK’s outdated ban on assisted dying. This morning Dignity in Dying patron Prue Leith, guest editor of the Today programme, and Prof Cosford both stated their support for a government review of the current law, something we have repeatedly called for and which had support from cross-party MPs when raised in the Commons last month.
“Prof Cosford, who has incurable lung cancer, spoke of the fear and anxiety he has over the way he might die and the lack of control afforded to him and other terminally ill people under the current law. He stressed the need to gather information on what dying people currently face, and on the views of doctors and the general public, emphasising that assisted dying is a societal issue, not just a medical one.
“What dying people tell us is that the current law is broken. Coronavirus has proven beyond doubt that the UK’s blanket ban on assisted dying simply does not work. Switzerland has now banned entry for UK travellers, removing the only option dying Brits have for a legal assisted death. This is precisely the situation many have feared all year, and the options terminally ill people have been forced to contemplate in the vacuum of choice and compassion left by the UK’s outdated laws are unconscionable. Brits have been forced to travel prematurely and alone to Dignitas, as one terminally ill NHS worker did last month. Others have been forced to take matters into their own hands at home in violent ways, including one terminally ill man who jumped in front of oncoming traffic on the North Circular. Many more have been forced to suffer unbearably against their wishes, their loved ones left traumatised.
“Meanwhile, New Zealand legalised assisted dying last month, Spain looks set to follow suit next year, Austria’s Supreme Court has ruled that assisted dying will be available there in 2022 and an assisted dying bill is currently progressing through Ireland’s Dáil. True end-of-life choice is already available in states across the US and Australia. Assisted dying laws are a sign of a progressive, compassionate society, the lack of which in the UK is a stain on our country’s reputation. A review of Britain’s ban on assisted dying is long-overdue.”
The Rt Hon Andrew Mitchell MP, co-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Choice at the End of Life, said:
“I know the mood in Parliament is shifting more in line with the public, the overwhelming majority of whom believe dying people should have the choice to die on their own terms. Last month the Health Secretary and MPs across the House recognised that there are significant issues with the UK’s current laws and acknowledged that the Government must gather evidence to understand the true extent of the harm caused to terminally ill people and their loved ones and the challenges the current law is causing for police officers, healthcare professionals and other public servants. The time is coming for Parliament to grasp this nettle and give assisted dying the attention it deserves.”
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