Frequently Asked Questions
Here we answer some of the questions that frequently come up about MDMD. If you have a question that isn’t on this list, that you think should be, please tell us.
MDMD is a right to die campaign organisation which wants to see a more compassionate approach to dying in the UK, including giving people the legal right to a medically assisted death if that is their persistent wish. We believe that people should have more control over the manner and timing of their death in order to minimise their mental and physical suffering.
Our organisation contributes to the public discussion of right to die issues. We work alongside other organisations such as FATE, Humanists UK and Dignity in Dying, to expose the inadequacies of the current law and to help define a safe, broad, workable alternative.
MDMD had an extensive consultation period with its supporters in 2015/6 to agree the following statement of objectives:
- To campaign for a change in the law in the UK to allow medical assistance to die to be given to mentally competent adults, with incurable health problems that result in their perceived quality of life falling permanently below the level they are able to accept, providing this is their own persistent request.
- To promote debate and discussion in the media on issues connected with end-of-life choices and assisted dying.
- To promote the wider acceptance and use of Advance Decisions (“Living Wills”) and Lasting Power of Attorney for Health and Welfare in the UK.
- To support and work with other organisations that also campaign for a change in the law on assisted dying in the UK to further our common goals. In addition, to maintain contacts with other relevant organisations around the world.
- To create and maintain communities of members who can give each other support and guidance in examining options for a legal medically assisted death abroad, until such time as there is a satisfactory law in the UK.
The full details of MDMD’s position in relation to changing UK law can be found in our What We Advocate page.
Dignity in Dying argues for a change in the law only when the patient is terminally ill and has less than 6 months to live. MDMD strongly rejects this requirement, and we believe what is intended as a safeguard is in fact a serious problem.
FATE focuses on a change in law in the Scottish parliament. Humanists UK promotes humanism in general: right-to-die legislation is just one of their concerns, which they approach from a non-religious perspective. MDMD focuses on the Westminster parliament and is open to supporters of all faiths and none.
FATE, Humanists UK and MDMD are, however, on the same page regarding right-to-die legislation and are increasingly working together. All three organisations believe that the 6-month limitation would prevent assistance to die for many who desire it, in particular those suffering from long term degenerative diseases such as MS, MND and dementia.
MDMD as an organisation works within the law and does not help people to die. We will fight wherever we can for a change in the law but we do not advocate breaking the law.
We do, however understand why some people, out of compassion, feel driven to assist others to die, or to end their own lives unaided. We regard these events as tragic failings of a bad law which needs to be changed.
Some supporters have accompanied their friends or family members to Switzerland – the so-called “Swiss option”. That is their personal choice and they are not acting on behalf of MDMD in this.
There are two sides of vulnerability: those being persuaded to end their life who would otherwise want treatment, and those being persuaded to accept treatment when they would otherwise want to end their life.
We see many tragic instances where, in the absence of being able to request assisted dying from qualified medical professionals, people decide to take matters into their own hands, either because they are suffering or because a loved one is suffering. Provided that the change in UK law is well thought out, it can help protect vulnerable people.
Recent cases have shown that leaving the law as it stands does not ensure protection. MDMD strongly believe that the best safeguard for vulnerable people is to bring about a change in the law which includes to following criteria:
- The individual should receive professional counselling about available options for continued treatment, palliative care, supported living, etc.
- Two doctors should independently certify that the individual has mental capacity to make autonomous medical decisions relating to rationally ending their life, is not suffering from a curable medical depression which might be impairing their judgement, has incurable medical conditions which permanently reduce their quality of life below the level the individual can accept, has allowed time to adapt to changed circumstances resulting from injury or illness, and has carefully considered all possible options, including palliative care.
- Every person requesting a doctor-assisted death being interviewed by an official, independent legal witness, experienced in family matters, to ensure that the person is acting on their own free will and is not being pressured by relatives or friends. To assist in this, MDMD propose that individuals who would like the option of assistance to die at some point in the future should make a clear statement to that effect, repeatedly signed and witnessed, while they are still healthy and fully mentally competent. We refer to this as an Extended Advance Decision.
MDMD strongly recommend that everyone, regardless of age or health, consider their end of life wishes and write an Advance Decision, which doctors are generally very happy to discuss, sign, and keep on their records. Advance Decisions (also known as Advance Directives or Living Wills) are used so that an individual can refuse any medical treatment, including life-sustaining treatment, under the circumstances they detail in the document, when they are no longer able to speak for themselves – in a coma, following a stroke, or due to loss of mental capacity.
Regrettably MDMD advise caution in talking to doctors about assisted dying, especially if you are considering attempting to travel to Switzerland at some stage for a medically assisted suicide there. Most doctors, to protect themselves under the current law, will refuse to discuss assisted dying in any meaningful way. They are unable to help you. If a doctor knows, or suspects that you are planning to end your life in Switzerland, he/she may make it harder to obtain medical records which are necessary for a medically assisted death there. There is an example of this happening in this personal story.
In this respect MDMD consider the doctor patient relationship to be broken. It will only be repaired by a change in the law allowing doctors to meaningfully discuss a patient’s end of life wishes when these include the option of a medically assisted death.
MDMD recommend that, rather than having a single “big conversation”, have a series of discussions where both parties feel they can talk about death in an open and honest matter. It’s always better to raise the topic well in advance of “needing” to talk about it, because it is always a more comfortable conversation to have in a time of good health than a time of crisis. We discuss this in more detail on this page.
In terms of making your own wishes known to loved ones, the conversation needs to be on-going over many years – especially discussing with children from their late teens onwards. Making or changing an Advance Decision, which you share with your family and close friends, is an ideal opportunity to discuss your views.
It is perhaps THE most important social issue of our time, but predicting when change will happen in the UK is hard. It is a difficult campaign which needs as much support as possible.
We are seeing changes happening around the world, and public opinion in the UK is in our favour. The time is right.
The good news is that there are plenty of practical things you can do!
- Join a local MDMD group – or form one.
- Talk to your local MP at their surgery and encourage others to do likewise.
- Make an Advance Decision and promote their existence.
- Talk to friends in the medical profession and encourage them to speak out in favour of a change in the law.
- Comment on relevant articles in the media – write letters to newspapers and post comments on local and national news websites.
- Get active on MDMD’s Facebook page and Twitter feed. Follow us and comment on, like, share or retweet our posts.
- Let us know about relevant stories in the local media: we’ll broadcast them on our website and social media.
- Consider writing a story for our website or the media. MDMD has contacts with journalists who are keen to use people’s personal stories to talk about the difficult issues around assisted dying and end-of-life care.
- MDMD is run by volunteers. If you have skills you think could assist us, and you would like to take a more active part in our campaign, please get in touch.