Sir Keir Starmer, leader of the Labour Party, has said MPs should be allowed to vote on assisted dying. His comments come alongside several senior politicians, including Michael Gove, Alicia Kearns, Mel Stride, Tobias Ellwood and Darren Jones, who have backed another assisted dying vote in Parliament.
The last time MPs voted on assisted dying was 2015. 11 MPs who are now members of Sir Keir’s shadow cabinet supported the bill at the time.
Starmer’s comments come in the light of the news that Dame Esther Rantzen, the broadcaster who founded the charities Childline and The Silver Line, said she had joined the assisted dying centre Dignitas. Dame Esther is currently undergoing treatment for stage four lung cancer.
Cabinet Member Mel Stride said the government did not have plans to bring the law back to parliament but he would not be resistant to discussions if it did. Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove said it was “appropriate for the Commons to revisit [assisted dying]”. Alicia Kearns, Chair of the foreign affairs select committee, said she thought there had been “a fundamental shift in the country, but also in parliament” since 2015.
Kearns told the BBC: “The amount of my colleagues who say ‘I’ve reflected, I’ve changed my views’… I really do think that the national conversation has changed,”
Prominent Labour MP Darren Jones has told reporters that an assisted dying debate “should happen” and he believes a debate will happen “sooner rather than later”.
The most recent attempt to change the law ended when the bill ran out of time in 2021. There are currently no votes or debates expected on this topic in this parliamentary term.
Avengers and Game of Thrones star Diana Rigg recently made headlines when she made an impassioned case to legalise assisted dying in a message recorded shortly before her death. The message was released by her daughter.
The Health and Social Care Committee is currently running an inquiry into assisted dying. It was due to publish its findings this year, but due to the debate around the report, it is likely to be published early in 2024.
Progress on assisted dying legislation is being made in Scotland, Jersey and the Isle of Man. Each jurisdiction is due to debate the issue next year.
Claire Macdonald, Director of My Death, My Decision said:
“We welcome Sir Keir Starmer’s comments that there are “grounds for changing the law” on assisted dying. The current status quo forces British citizens into an impossible choice: flee abroad for an assisted death in a foreign country or stay at home and suffer. The current law is barbaric.
In the next parliament, we desperately need a proper debate and vote on this vital issue. The vast majority of voters want to see a change in the law. Adults who are intolerably suffering from a physical condition that cannot be cured and have come to a clear and settled wish to die should be allowed that right.”
Members of the MDMD team, as well as individuals affected by the current law on assisted dying, are available for interview upon request
For further comment or information, media should contact Nathan Stilwell at email@example.com or phone 07456200033.
My Death, My Decision is a grassroots campaign group that wants the law in England and Wales to allow mentally competent adults who are terminally ill or intolerably suffering from an incurable condition the option of a legal, safe, and compassionate assisted death. With the support of over 3,000 members and supporters, we advocate for an evidence-based law that would balance individual choice alongside robust safeguards and finally give the people of England and Wales choice at the end of their lives.
Read more about our work with the Assisted Dying Inquiry: https://www.mydeath-mydecision.org.uk/2023/07/13/our-summary-the-assisted-dying-inquiry/