The current law on assisted dying is wrong. It is cruel, inhumane, and forces those who are terminally ill or intolerably suffering to endure unnecessary pain and distress. Nine in ten members of the public now support changing the law, and at least one Brit per week travels to Switzerland to end their life.
Our work aims to spotlight the experiences of those directly affected by the current law, and challenge the exclusion of those with intolerable illnesses from our lawmakers’ debates.
Since 2003, there have been three major attempts to change the law on assisted dying in England and Wales – all have sadly failed. In 2003 Lord Joffe’s Patient (Assisted Dying) Bill and its later iterations failed to pass into law, and lawmakers resolved to hold an inquiry into the law via Lord Mackay’s Select Committee. In 2014, following Tony Nicklinson’s unsuccessful bid to change the law, Lord Falconer introduced new legislation which proposed legalising assisted dying for those with six months or fewer left to live. Regrettably, although the Bill secured provisional support in the House of Lords, it failed to become law and ran out of time. In 2015, Rob Marris MP introduced a Private Member’s Bill which was almost identical to Lord Falconer’s proposals in the House of Commons, but was defeated by 330 votes against to 118 in favour.
ASSISTED DYING INQUIRY
We want to see an end to the UK’s ban on assisted dying. Recent legal cases now indicate that only Parliament has the power to change the law, and if this is the case we think that their decision should be informed by robust and up-to-date evidence. More than 15 years have now passed since Parliament last scrutinised the evidence underpinning the UK’s ban in any detail, and since then the facts have materially changed. To secure an inquiry we’ve:
- Helped to organise the largest parliamentary joint-statement ever in support of an assisted dying inquiry. 50+ MPs and peers – from across the political spectrum, including some previously opposed to assisted dying reform – signed our statement calling on the Secretary of State for Justice and Chairs of the Health, Justice, and Human Rights Select Committees to launch an inquiry into the law
- Organised open letters, bringing together the claimants and families of most of the past assisted dying cases, and 34 doctors, politicians, religious leaders, academics, and campaigners in support of an inquiry
- Published a map of assisted deaths which revealed for the first time the extent to which people who travel abroad for assisted deaths are unknown to the police, and from which constituencies people have travelled for an assisted death
- Published research adding pressure for an inquiry, by revealing that more than one Brit per week now travels to Switzerland to end their life.
BROADENING THE DEBATE
All too often the voices of those most relevant to this debate – people living with intolerable suffering – are sidelined or shut out by our decision-makers considering assisted dying. We want to see a change in the law that respects the choices of both those with terminal illnesses and intolerable suffering. To broaden the debate and secure a lasting change in the law we have:
- Commissioned independent research showing that support for assisted dying reform has more than doubled since 2014, and up to 88% of the public favour changing the law for those who are intolerably suffering
- Repeatedly briefed the UK Parliament on assisted dying, for example urging decision-makers to highlight the case of Phil Newby. Our work was also explicitly cited by one MP as a contributing factor to his change of heart
- Submitted expert evidence to Jersey’s Citizens’ Jury on assisted dying, dispelling myths about a lack of support for reform amongst the faith community and highlighting the case for an inclusive change in the law
- Worked with our patron Professor Wendy Savage to prompt a review into the British Medical Association’s stance on assisted dying. Subsequently, we also campaigned and organised an open letter from 30 doctors, philosophers, and academics calling for the BMA to drop its opposition, and helped to secure a landmark verdict: 40% of doctors voted for the BMA to actively support changing the law, 21% favoured a neutral stance, and only 33% voted for the BMA to remain opposed
- Co-founded the UK Assisted Dying Coalition – which brought together all the leading assisted dying groups in the UK and Crown Dependencies favouring a change in the law for those who are terminally ill and intolerably suffering.
BUT WE NEED YOUR HELP
We’re currently pushing for an inquiry into the law on assisted dying. In 2015, we know that a major barrier to success was that MPs didn’t receive enough letters encouraging them to support a change in the law. You can help us secure an inquiry by writing to your MP and asking them to support an inquiry into the law. Our take action toolkit has advice on how to go about this.
You can also support our campaign by becoming a member or by making a donation. As an entirely volunteer-led organisation we need financial support to keep our campaigns going. If you have a story to tell, or would like to support our campaign please get in touch firstname.lastname@example.org