Austrian court overturns ban on assisted dying

Austria’s constitutional court has ruled a ban on helping ‘seriously ill’ people ending their own lives is unconstitutional, in a landmark ruling which has been welcomed by My Death, My Decision

The case relates to a claim brought by a series of claimants, including a 56-year-old man who suffers from multiple sclerosis. Under Austria’s criminal code anyone who helped someone end their life could have faced up to five years imprisonment

But on Friday, Austria’s top court ruled that the existing law is unconstitutional and that ‘it violates the right to self-determination, because this fact forbids any kind of assistance under any circumstances’; echoing the decision to similar effect made in Germany earlier this year. Notably, the court drew a comparison with the right to refuse life-sustaining medication or other interventions under an advance decision and said that, from a fundamental human rights point of view, there was no difference between that and wanting to end your life by suicide. The key criterion is that the decision is made of the person’s own free will, without coercion.

The ruling means that assisting someone to end their life will not always be a criminal offence in Austria, and it is expected that its Parliament will now debate the matter. The repeal of the relevant law in Austria will come into force on 31st December 2021.

My Death, My Decision’s Chair Trevor Moore said:

‘In 2020 we have seen many countries around the world settle upon laws allowing for assisted dying, including Germany, Austria and New Zealand; and in others, legislation is under serious consideration, such as in Ireland. Yet in the UK, where around 90% of the public now support a change in the law, our politicians are dragging their heels.

So at My Death, My Decision we continue to urge the Justice Secretary, Robert Buckland, to establish an independent inquiry (call for evidence), so that stories such as the oppression of the vulnerable, and of doctors being forced to take part in assisted deaths, can be shown as the scaremongering they are. Only in that way can those with hidden agendas be exposed and the British public acquire a right now available to well over 150 million people worldwide.’

Notes:

For any more information or comment please contact Keiron McCabe, My Death, My Decision’s Campaigns and Communications Manager at keiron.mccabe@mydeath-mydecision.org.uk 

The repeal of the relevant law in Austria will come into force on 31st December 2021.

My Death, My Decision is a grassroots non-profit organisation that campaigns for a balanced and compassionate approach to assisted dying in England and Wales. As a growing movement, we are at the forefront of social change: nearly 90% of the public now favours a change in the law to allow adults of sound mind, who are either terminally ill or facing incurable suffering, the option of a peaceful, painless, and dignified death.

Read more about My Death, My Decision’s campaign for an inclusive change in the law: https://www.mydeath-mydecision.org.uk/

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Court of Appeal refuses Paul Lamb the opportunity to challenge the law on assisted dying

 The Court of Appeal has rejected a bid from Paul Lamb to challenge the law banning assisted dying, in a judgment expected to end further legal cases for the foreseeable future. We are disappointed at the decision and urge Parliament not to allow this ruling to become the last word on assisted dying. 

Paul, a 65-year old former builder, now a patron of My Death, My Decision, has been paralysed from the neck down since 1990. He is campaigning to change the law on assisted dying and wants the right to die if his pain ever became too much to bear. 

My Death, My Decision had been supporting Paul’s legal case and would have sought to intervene if he had been granted permission to pursue it. It campaigns to legalise assisted dying across England and Wales for people who are terminally ill and incurably suffering, like Paul, who have made a clear decision, free from coercion, to end their lives. 

Paul’s lawyers had argued that the current ban on assisted dying, which affects those who are physically unable to end their lives (e.g. by going to Switzerland), discriminated against Paul as a disabled person and therefore infringed his human rights under Article 14 of the European convention of human rights.  

However, the Court of Appeal decided not to grant Paul permission to bring his case to a full hearing, meaning that it ended before Paul was able to make his full arguments. 

Dismissing his appeal, Lord Justice Nick Phillips said that previous cases had established assisted dying was now ‘a matter for Parliament, not the courts’. 

Speaking after the decision, Paul said he was ‘devastated’ by the judgment but was determined to ‘continue fighting’ to change the law. Rebuffed by the courts, Paul is now supporting My Death, My Decision’s campaign for an inquiry and has called on the Secretary of State for Justice to instigate a call for evidence or call on Parliament to do so. 

Following the decision, My Death, My Decision’s Chair Trevor Moore said: 

‘Following this latest rejection of assisted dying by the Courts, the spotlight falls squarely on Parliament. With public opinion overwhelmingly in favour of a compassionate law for the UK, politicians are out of kilter with those who elected them. To dispel the often alarmist propaganda promulgated by opponents, My Death, My Decision supports Paul Lamb in his call for a public inquiry. 

We can see as we look to other countries how a compassionate law with robust safeguards can attract and increase public trust – in those that have introduced a law, public support remains high.’

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Travel to Switzerland for an Assisted Death not Criminalised by Lockdown Legislation

Credit: gdsteam, source: https://bit.ly/38ymwuL (Creative Commons 2.0)

In an urgent parliamentary question on 5th Nov 2020, the day a second lockdown was introduced in England, Andrew Mitchell (MP) asked the Health Secretary Matt Hancock to make a statement on the impact of new coronavirus regulations on the ability of terminally ill adults to travel abroad for an assisted death. 

In his response, Matt Hancock reminded the house that under the 1961 Suicide Act, it is an offence to encourage or assist the death of another person but that ‘it is legal to travel abroad for the purpose of assisted dying where it is allowed in that jurisdiction.’ He then clarified: ‘The new coronavirus regulations … place restrictions on leaving the home without a reasonable excuse; travelling abroad for the purpose of assisted dying is a reasonable excuse, so anyone doing so would not be breaking the law.’

Andrew Mitchell responded, drawing attention to the significant changes in medical opinion reflected in the recent BMA poll of doctors; the developments in New Zealand and the Republic of Ireland regarding the introduction of assisted dying laws; together with the strong public support in the UK. He recognised the government’s position of neutrality, but requested a greater understanding of three things:

  • the extent of suffering that the blanket ban on assisted dying is causing dying people and their families; 
  • the challenges that the current law is creating for healthcare professionals, police officers and other public servants; and
  • what the UK can learn from international evidence on the operation of assisted dying laws, and their safeguards, in the United States, Australia and Canada.

Although Mr Mitchell made clear that his personal preference was for a law along the lines of the limited law in Oregon, he included Canada in the countries he cited. Canada has a broader approach to assisted dying, without a hard limit on life expectancy, which is strongly favoured by MDMD.

Mr Hancock responded ‘…we acknowledge the changing views of many, including many in the medical profession, and, of course, we observe the changes in the international debate. I think it is absolutely reasonable for this House to have a conversation and discussion on what is an important topic, and it is right that we locate that question within a broader discussion of how we care for people at the end of their lives’.

In the following discussion several MPs raised issues reflecting the growing support for a change in the law, always referencing “terminal illness”, without clarification. 

A particularly insightful contribution came from Noel Conway’s MP Daniel Kawczynski: ‘It is very difficult to tell somebody who is in pain and suffering and who wants to die that the state is going to prevent them from doing that. As a Roman Catholic, I recently changed my mind on the issue because of my constituent Mr Noel Conway, who lives in Garmston near Shrewsbury. I said to him, “Why don’t you go to Switzerland?” and his answer will stay with me forever: “No, I’m an Englishman. I want to die in England.” It is extremely important that our citizens have that right. Will the Secretary of State do me the courtesy of agreeing to a short Zoom call with my constituent Mr Noel Conway, who is getting a national reputation as a leading campaigner on the issue?’ Mr Hancock agreed to that request.

My Death, My Decision’s Lead Campaign Commentator Phil Cheatle said: 

This clarification from Matt Hancock regarding travel to Switzerland during lockdown for an assisted death is most welcome. However, it did not clarify the position of anyone who might wish to accompany someone legally travelling to Switzerland for an assisted death during lockdown.’

‘The debate highlighted again the absurdity of requiring those who want a legal assisted death to travel to Switzerland. It was encouraging to see the positive tone of many MPs towards an inquiry with a view to changing the law. However, such an inquiry needs to address the issue for all those who are incurably suffering, regardless of their life expectancy. MPs need to understand that restricting eligibility to those with a life expectancy of six months or less would be discriminatory, as it would exclude people facing years of constant and unbearable suffering such as Tony Nicklinson.’

Notes:

For any more information or comment please contact Keiron McCabe, My Death, My Decision’s Campaigns and Communications Manager at keiron.mccabe@mydeath-mydecision.org.uk 

My Death, My Decision is a grassroots non-profit organisation that campaigns for a balanced and compassionate approach to assisted dying in England and Wales. As a growing movement, we are at the forefront of social change: nearly 90% of the public now favours a change in the law to allow adults of sound mind, who are either terminally ill or facing incurable suffering, the option of a peaceful, painless, and dignified death.

Read more about My Death, My Decision’s campaign for an inclusive change in the law: https://www.mydeath-mydecision.org.uk/

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Assisted Dying Referendum: New Zealand votes to overturn ban on assisted dying

Credit: New Zealand Flag
https://bit.ly/34CZ1yh

New Zealand has overwhelmingly voted to legalise assisted dying by 65.2% to 33.8%, according to the preliminary results of a nation-wide referendum. My Death, My Decision has welcomed the result as a decisive victory for campaigners, which will add renewed pressure on the UK to follow suit. 

Nearly two thirds of voters in New Zealand opted to support proposals which would allow doctors to help adults of sound mind end their life, provided they are terminally ill and have a settled and un-coerced wish. In My Death, My Decision’s view these results represent yet another sign of support for assisted dying elsewhere in the world, coming just four years after another commonwealth country, Canada, voted to legalise assisted dying for the terminally ill and incurably suffering. 

The official results of New Zealand’s referendum will be released on 6 November and a change in the law is expected to come into effect a year after that date. 

Reacting to the result My Death, My Decision’s Chair Trevor Moore said: 

‘We congratulate New Zealand for voting to endow those at the end of their life with the dignity, compassion, and autonomy that they deserve. 

‘These results will add renewed pressure for the UK to change its law on assisted dying. When more than 150 million people  worldwide already have the option of an assisted death, reflecting that such reforms can be achieved in a safe and compassionate way, it is hard to see why the UK should deny its citizens the same basic human right. 

‘Repeated polls have now demonstrated assisted dying is overwhelmingly supported in the UK, and nearly 90% of the public favour a change in the law for the terminally ill or incurably suffering. New Zealand shows the depth of popular support a compassionate assisted dying law has when the public are actually given a say. We urge all MPs to take notice of the groundswell of support for assisted dying in the UK and to take long overdue action to review our law. An important first step would be to hold an inquiry to examine the evidence, as has already happened in countless other countries. That way, politicians can make a properly informed decision, divorced from lobbying that too often is not founded on evidence.’ 

Notes:

For any more information or comment please contact Keiron McCabe, My Death, My Decision’s Campaigns and Communications Manager at keiron.mccabe@mydeath-mydecision.org.uk or phone on 07972204007. 

More about New Zealand’s referendum 

A nationwide binding referendum on whether to enact the End of Life Choice Act A nationwide binding referendum on whether to enact the End of Life Choice Act 2019 was held in New Zealand on 17 October. The referendum followed after a parliamentary inquiry reviewed the evidence on assisted dying and New Zealand’s Parliament subsequently voted 60-59 in favour of the Act subject to a referendum.

Voters were asked whether they supported the proposed law or not and preliminary results show a majority of 65.2% to 33.8% of voters supported it. 

Under the proposed law doctors will be able to assist someone with six or fewer months left to live to end their life, if they are 18 years old, a citizen/resident of New Zealand, experiencing unbearable suffering that cannot be eased and an ongoing decline in physical capability, and provided they are able to make an informed decision. 

The option of an assisted death would be subject to safeguards including a requirement for any request to be made in writing, a requirement for an independent doctor to verify an individual’s eligibility (as well as a psychiatrist specialist confirming their capacity if there were any doubts), and an oversight body review to ensure the law was complied with. 

The official results will be released on 6 November and if more than 50% vote yes in the referendum the End of Life Choice Act will come into force 12 months after this date

Wider developments

The UK Parliament last voted on assisted dying in 2015, rejecting by 330 against to 118 a private members’ bill to legalise assisted dying for those who are terminally ill and likely to die within six months. 

Last month, in one of the largest surveys of medical opinion ever, half of doctors said they personally supported changing the law on assisted dying. In the British Medical Association members’ survey on assisted dying, 59% of doctors also felt that, if the law is to change, then patients with physical conditions causing intolerable suffering which cannot be relieved should be able to access assisted dying; whereas only 24% thought that only patients suffering from a condition likely to cause death in six months or less should be eligible.

Recently, the families and living claimants of most of the previous assisted dying cases came together for the first time, to urge the UK Secretary of State for Justice to instigate a review into assisted dying or call on the UK Parliament to conduct one, similar to the process which began New Zealand’s path to legislative reform.

Assisted dying is now permitted for terminally ill and incurably suffering people in Canada, Belgium, Italy, Germany, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands. It is also permitted specifically for terminally ill people in Colombia, ten US jurisdictions, and the Australian state of Victoria, and will soon become legal in Western Australia. Following these results, it is also expected to become legal in New Zealand. An assisted dying bill for the terminally ill and incurably suffering is also currently going through the Dáil in the Republic of Ireland.

Read more about nearly 90% of the public supporting assisted dying.

Read more about our campaign to legalise assisted dying. 

My Death, My Decision is a grassroots non-profit organisation that campaigns for a balanced and compassionate approach to assisted dying in England and Wales. Founded in 2009, we represent the interests of those who face constant and incurable suffering and advocate on their behalf to secure a lasting change in the law. As a growing movement, we are at the forefront of social change: nearly 90% of the public now favours a change in the law to allow adults of sound mind, who are either terminally ill or facing incurable suffering, the option of a peaceful, painless, and dignified death.

Read more about My Death, My Decision’s campaign for an inclusive change in the law: https://www.mydeath-mydecision.org.uk/

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My Death, My Decision welcomes new patron, Adam Kay

My Death, My Decision is delighted to announce the appointment of its newest patron, Adam Kay. Adam is an award-winning British comedian, writer, and former doctor. 

Adam is probably best known for his debut book, ‘This is Going to Hurt’: a Sunday Times bestseller, which has sold more than one million copies in the UK and is a collection of diary entries based on Adam’s experiences as a junior doctor. His follow up book, ‘Twas the Nightshift Before Christmas’ was another acclaimed hit reaching number 1 on the Sunday Times Hardback Non-Fiction chart. 

Outside of his career as an author, Adam is also a successful comedian and performer having sold-out at the Edinburgh Fringe for six years in a row and with television credits including Mitchell & Webb, Very British Problems, and Mrs Brown’s Boys. Described as one of the most influential people in the UK, Adam is a passionate supporter of the campaign to legalise assisted dying and a frequent contributor to the Sunday Times, Radio 4, and Newsnight. 

My Death, My Decision’s Chair Trevor Moore said: 

‘We are absolutely delighted to welcome Adam as the newest patron of My Death, My Decision. Known across the country for his visceral honesty, unflinching humour, and heartfelt advocacy – and with his medical background having exposed him to the front line of end of life experience – Adam will be a great ambassador for patient autonomy and the assisted dying campaign’.  

Notes:

For any more information or comment please contact Keiron McCabe, My Death, My Decision’s Campaigns and Communications Manager at keiron.mccabe@mydeath-mydecision.org.uk 

My Death, My Decision is a grassroots non-profit organisation that campaigns for a balanced and compassionate approach to assisted dying in England and Wales. Founded in 2009, we represent the interests of those who face constant and incurable suffering and advocate on their behalf to secure a lasting change in the law. As a growing movement, we are at the forefront of social change: nearly 90% of the public now favours a change in the law to allow adults of sound mind, who are either terminally ill or facing incurable suffering, the option of a peaceful, painless, and dignified death.

Read more about My Death, My Decision’s campaign for an inclusive change in the law: https://www.mydeath-mydecision.org.uk/

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Doctors vote to end BMA’s opposition to assisted dying in historic survey

The British Medical Association has announced that following a landmark members’ survey on the topic more doctors would prefer for the BMA to actively support assisted dying, than those who oppose or are neutral. My Death, My Decision has welcomed the announcement as a clear signal that the BMA must now drop its opposition to assisted dying. 

More than 29,000 doctors took part in the poll, which found: 

  • 40% of doctors think the BMA should actively support a change in the law 
  • 21% of doctors think the BMA should adopt a neutral stance 
  • 33% of doctors think the BMA should retain its opposition 

Taken together, this means that the most votes cast for any option was for the BMA to actively support assisted dying, and a majority of 61% backed proposals for the BMA to drop its existing opposition. 

In My Death, My Decision’s view the results mean that there is now a clear preference amongst members of the BMA for a shift in the trade union’s policy. 

Since 2006 the BMA has opposed assisted dying. However, the BMA is now expected to change its stance at its next policy-making meeting, expected in June 2021. 

My Death, My Decision’s Chair Trevor Moore said: 

Numerous independent polls show that the public is overwhelmingly in favour of an assisted dying law for England and Wales. Therefore today’s revelation by the British Medical Association that a clear majority of members either support, or are neutral, on the introduction of such a law, comes as no surprise. These convincing statistics mean that at its next annual representative meeting the BMA will surely have to shift away from its current opposition to an assisted dying law.’

‘Around 150 million people in different jurisdictions around the world now enjoy the human right to an assisted death, subject to robust safeguards. There is no justification for continuing to deprive the people of England and Wales of that same right. Seeing such a convincing proportion of the medical profession take the stance evidenced by the BMA survey, our politicians must now pick up the baton and take forward a meaningful debate on this key issue. We call on the Justice Secretary to set up a public inquiry without any further delay.’

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Royal College of GPs threatened with legal action over hostile assisted dying stance

Two GPs have threatened the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) with legal action after it decided earlier this year to remain opposed to assisted dying, despite a majority of GPs in a prior consultation wanting it to move to be neutral or supportive stance. 

In February 2020 the Royal College of GPs published the results of their 2019 survey of members’ views on the college’s position on changing the law on assisted dying. 41% of the 6,674 GP’s who responded thought the RCGP should support a change in the law; 10% thought the College should be neutral; with 47% believing that the College should retain its opposition. Excluding abstentions, that meant a majority voted for a change in the position to neutral or support. The results also showed a leap in support for assisted dying amongst GPs, as the number of respondents wanting the RCGP to support assisted dying increased by sevenfold, rising from 5% in 2013.  However, despite this, the College’s council chose to remain opposed. This caused outrage amongst many GPs who believe that a neutral stance would be a better reflection of the divided opinions.

Professor Aneez Esmail and Sir Sam Everington, both high-profile members of the RCGP have now mounted a legal challenge to the RGCP council decision. Their press release also reports a new poll of 1,000 GPs who were asked what position the RCGP should take, given the 2019 RCGP poll results. 38% of respondees said the College should now adopt a neutral position on law change, with 20% saying it should support it and only 35% agreeing with the Council’s decision to retain its opposition to legalisation.

My Death, My Decision’s Lead Campaign Commentator, Phil Cheatle, said:

‘The public rightly hold doctors in very high regard, however the same cannot be said of the organisations that claim to represent them. When such organisations disregard the clear wishes of their members and the overwhelming support for assisted dying from the public, they risk undermining trust in their decision-making.  

‘Organisations representing healthcare professionals should be playing an active role in advising on possible UK assisted dying legislation to ensure it is safe, workable and integrated with excellent palliative care, so that it enables people to have the good death they crave when that requires medical assistance to die.’

‘MDMD welcomes the scrutiny being applied to the RCGP decision. We are in full support of those bringing this case.’

Notes:

For any more information or comment please contact Phil Cheatle, My Death, My Decision’s Lead Campaign Commentator at phil.cheatle@mydeath-mydecision.org.uk 

My Death, My Decision is a grassroots non-profit organisation that campaigns for a balanced and compassionate approach to assisted dying in England and Wales. As a growing movement, we are at the forefront of social change: nearly 90% of the public now favours a change in the law to allow adults of sound mind, who are either terminally ill or facing incurable suffering, the option of a peaceful, painless, and dignified death.

Read more about My Death, My Decision’s campaign for an inclusive change in the law: https://www.mydeath-mydecision.org.uk/

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Arbitrary six month limit for assisted dying would weaken arguments for reform, says renowned neurosurgeon

The renowned neurosurgeon and best-selling author, Dr Henry Marsh, has warned that legal assisted dying could be less likely if a law was restricted to those with only 6 months left to live. 

Speaking at an event for My Death, My Decision, inspired by his best selling book ‘Do No Harm’, Dr Marsh explored how his career as a pioneering neurosurgeon had impacted on his own relationship with death, as well as affirming his belief in the importance of patient choice. He also stressed the importance for mental wellbeing of access to nature within healthcare, something already available at many hospices. 

As part of the event, Dr Marsh reflected on the modern role of a doctor and whether it was confined to merely prolonging patients’ lives, or directed instead to relieving their suffering. Identifying strongly with the latter view, Henry spoke candidly about the limitations of modern medicine and how the experiences of his friends and family had helped to shape his own view that a patient’s quality of life matters more than just its length. 

Elsewhere Dr Marsh also spoke about his passionate support for assisted dying, and why he believed other doctors, especially within the palliative care community, are often afraid to voice their support for a change in the law, for fear of career repercussions. 

Finally, responding to a lengthy question and answer session, Dr Marsh expressed his hope that assisted dying would become legal in the future. However, challenging the view that assisted dying should be limited only to those who are terminally ill, Dr Marsh went on to warn that a narrow and arbitrary six-month law would deprive people with many of the most serious cases of any hope. 

He said, ‘I think the more demanding and serious cases are the ones with incurable suffering, people with motor-neurone disease, again early dementia, and my feeling is that we need to stick to our guns and make a rational case for it. Compromising over six months, I think actually in a sense weakens our case’… [Because opponents will say] ‘why six months? Why not five months? Why not nine months?’. 

Notes:

A full recording of the event can be found at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ft2ZpVS0V5o

For any more information or comment please contact Keiron McCabe, My Death, My Decision’s Campaigns and Communications Manager at keiron.mccabe@mydeath-mydecision.org.uk 

My Death, My Decision is a grassroots non-profit organisation that campaigns for a balanced and compassionate approach to assisted dying in England and Wales. As a growing movement, we are at the forefront of social change: nearly 90% of the public now favours a change in the law to allow adults of sound mind, who are either terminally ill or facing incurable suffering, the option of a peaceful, painless, and dignified death.

Read more about My Death, My Decision’s campaign for an inclusive change in the law: https://www.mydeath-mydecision.org.uk/

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A generation of assisted dying campaigners demand an inquiry into the law

Jane Nicklinson, one of the signatories of the letter, alongside her husband Tony, who had locked-in syndrome in the run-up to his death in 2012. Credit: Andi Reiss ‘Endgame’

The families and living claimants from most of the past right-to-die cases have come together for the first time, and called for an inquiry into assisted dying. In a joint letter, the campaigners, involved in more than two decades of legal cases, say that recent evidence now makes the case for an inquiry ‘overwhelming’ and have urged Parliament not to ‘turn a blind eye’ to the suffering caused by the current law. 

The intervention follows just days after a leading Conservative MP, Andrew Mitchell, claimed that assisted dying could now be legalised within four years. 

The full statement, published in The Guardian today, reads: 

We represent the families and living claimants of most of the previous assisted dying legal cases. We have come together, for the first time, because we now believe there is an overwhelming case to set up an inquiry into the law.

It has now been half a decade since Parliament last examined legislation to legalise assisted dying, and fifteen years since it formally scrutinised the evidence. In that time, the number of Britons travelling to Switzerland had rocketed sixfold; successive countries, including Canada, Germany, Italy, and parts of the United States and Australia have legalised assisted dying, demonstrating that such changes can be achieved in a safe and compassionate way; public opinion has dramatically risen to nearly 90% supporting a change in the law for the terminally ill and incurably suffering; and there has been a significant shift in medical opinion and from within the disability community.

Following our unsuccessful legal cases, it is now obvious that parliamentarians alone have a responsibility to look at this matter again. They must not allow our cases to become the final word on the matter, or else countless others will experience the indignity, suffering, and agony that we can attest that this law creates. 

The evidence on assisted dying has simply changed, and Parliament cannot afford to turn a blind eye any longer.

My Death, My Decision’s Chair Trevor Moore said: 

‘Since the UK Parliament last considered an assisted dying law, an increasing number of jurisdictions worldwide – Canada, several states in the US and Australia, and other European countries – have adopted or are actively considering assisted dying laws. Contrary to what opponents claim, these other countries have shown that an assisted death is a choice that stands alongside palliative care as part of end of life choices, not in opposition to it.

Meanwhile, as several opinion polls have confirmed, the public is now overwhelmingly in favour of an assisted dying law – well over 80% and as high as 90% for some scenarios.

Yet the UK Parliament remains deaf to the pleas of those who wish to avoid suffering painful and traumatic deaths, such as the brave campaigners who have brought  legal cases against the Government to allow an assisted death. 

The time for politicians to stop ducking this much-needed human right is now. We at My Death, My Decision remain committed in our campaign to achieve a law to embrace both the incurably suffering and the terminally ill.’

Notes:

For any more information or comment please contact Keiron McCabe, My Death, My Decision’s Campaigns and Communications Manager at keiron.mccabe@mydeath-mydecision.org.uk 

Read more about My Death, My Decision’s campaign for an inclusive change in the law: https://www.mydeath-mydecision.org.uk/

My Death, My Decision is a grassroots non-profit organisation that campaigns for a balanced and compassionate approach to assisted dying in England and Wales. As a growing movement, we are at the forefront of social change: nearly 90% of the public now favours a change in the law to allow adults of sound mind, who are either terminally ill or facing incurable suffering, the option of a peaceful, painless, and dignified death.

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Parliament could legalise assisted dying within 4 years, says ex Cabinet Minister

Credit: DFID at https://bit.ly/2FZGXEP

Conservative MP, Andrew Mitchell, in a recent Sky News interview, suggests that the law on Assisted Dying may change within this parliament. ‘I was, as a student and as a young MP, adamantly opposed to Assisted Dying and over the years my view has changed completely’ he said. His comments have been welcomed by right-to-die campaigners, and follows after Daniel Kawcynski MP claimed his view on Assisted Dying had changed.

In his interview Andrew Mitchell goes on to say that the change he wishes to see is limited to those within six months of dying. However doctors point to the impossibility of accurately giving a life expectancy, leading to a broader definition of ‘terminally ill’ in Scotland, with calls for similar changes in England and Wales.

Meanwhile, Canada’s law is evolving to remove any requirement to predict life expectancy and follows a more flexible approach. Because doctors are unable to accurately predict life expectancy, that flexibility overcomes a significant medical concern. The Canadian step-by-step approach shows a cautious, careful development, not the ‘slippery slope’ hyped by opponents.

MDMD’s Lead Campaign Commentator, Phil Cheatle, said:

 ‘It is gratifying to see MPs increasingly changing their minds in favour of assisted dying. However, in his proposal Andrew Mitchell fails to address the weaknesses of the arbitrary six month limit. As Lord Neuburger put it in the Tony Nicklinson legal case, ‘There seems to me to be significantly more justification in assisting people to die if they have the prospect of living for many years a life that they regarded as valueless, miserable and often painful, than if they have only a few months left to live.’ (Tony Nicklinson suffered from locked in syndrome – a non-terminal condition which made his life intolerable for him.)’

‘What is needed is a thorough and open evaluation of the options for assisted dying legislation, learning from countries like Canada, before picking any particular approach. In particular, we need to ensure that anyone who feels they might be vulnerable to inappropriate use of assisted dying legislation has adequate protection. We also need to avoid arbitrary restrictions that would prevent access to the legislation for some of those facing incurable suffering, when that is their own, informed and settled wish. With the rise in incurable degenerative diseases, many people are “dying” for much longer than six months. Appropriate use of the legislation should be determined by incurable suffering, in whatever form that takes, and personal choice, not unreliable estimates of life expectancy.’

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