The Assisted Dying Coalition is the UK and Crown dependencies coalition of organisations working in favour of legal recognition of the right to die, for individuals who have a clear and settled wish to end their life and who are terminally ill or facing incurable suffering.

Below you can find some news updates from our members. Elsewhere on the site you can also find more about us, our members, and our personnel, and how to get in touch.

Take Action: Ask your GP to support compassion and dignity in assisted dying poll

Humanists UK is encouraging all of its members and supporters to ask their GPs to back dignity and compassion for everyone by voting in support of assisted dying in the Royal College of General Practitioner’s survey, which closes on 13 December 2019.

Earlier this year the RCGP announced that its 53,000 members across the UK would be surveyed on whether there should be a change in the law to permit assisted dying. Currently, the RCGP is opposed to a change in the law.

Humanists UK actively campaigns for a change in the law on assisted dying and is currently supporting Paul Lamb in his legal case. Paul, who is paralysed from the neck down, wants to be able to end his life at the time and in the manner of his choosing if his condition worsens. He argues that the current law – which prohibits any assistance under threat of up to 14 years’ imprisonment – breaches his human rights.

To help ensure everyone has the right to a peaceful, compassionate, and dignified death, Humanists UK is asking for our members and supporters to write to their GP and ask them to back a change in the law. 

If you are a member of the RCGP and support a right to die for those who are incurably suffering or terminally ill, we urge you to vote in support. Humanists UK has also prepared the following extra supporting information although we note it is always best to personalise responses:

The right to determine the manner and timing of one’s death is a fundamental human right, and should be available for everyone who is of sound mind and either terminally ill or incurably suffering. It is vital that all human beings are able to live their lives while maintaining their dignity, autonomy, and choice, and that is only possible if the law is changed.  

More than one person a week is now forced to travel abroad to end their lives, but many more cannot afford the journey. Now, with nearly 90% of the public supporting a change in the law to enable those who are terminally ill or incurably suffering the right to control their death, and with more countries internationally moving to humane laws, it is more important than ever for the law to be changed. A compassionate law should not privilege those with the means to travel, nor limit a peaceful death to just those likely to die within six months. It would serve to balance autonomy and dignity alongside a robust set of safeguards to protect the most vulnerable.

NOTES:

For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK’s press manager Casey-Ann Seaniger at  casey@humanism.org.uk or 020 7324 3078.

Read more about Paul Lamb’s case for the right to die.

Find out more about our work on assisted dying.

Humanists UK believes that individuals who are of sound mind but who are terminally ill or incurably suffering should have a right to decide to end their life at a time and in a manner of their choosing. We recognise that any assisted dying law must contain stringent safeguards, but the international evidence from countries where assisted dying is legal shows that safeguards can be effective.

Humanists UK advances free thinking and promotes humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. Its work brings non-religious people together to develop their own views, helping people be happier and more fulfilled in the one life we have. Through its ceremonies, education services, and community and campaigning work, it strives to create a fair and equal society for all.

Phil Newby asks High Court for the right to challenge the UK’s ban on assisted dying

The post Phil Newby asks High Court for the right to challenge the UK’s ban on assisted dying appeared first on My Death, My Decision.

Phil Newby, a man who is facing incurable suffering and wants the right to challenge the UK’s ban on assisted dying, yesterday appealed for permission before the High Court.

The 49-year-old father of two, who suffers from the degenerative condition motor neurone disease, has already raised over £42,000 in donations from the public.

Phil could not attend court in person, but his legal team argued that the UK’s current prohibitive law breaches his human rights to a private and family life. They have invited the court to examine a growing body of international evidence in support of assisted dying and asked for the right to cross-examine expert witnesses.

In court, Phil’s lawyer, Paul Bowen QC, told Lord Justice Irwin and Mrs Justice May that Phil’s case differed from previous legal cases as if successful, it would allow adults of sound mind the ability to request an assisted death, in circumstances where they suffer from an incurable disease which causes them unbearable suffering and cannot otherwise be palliated.

Characterising the options which the Government said were already legally available to Phil as ‘inhumane’, Mr Bowen went on to say that the issue to the heart of the case was whether Phil could exercise a degree of autonomy at the end of his life.

Nearly 90% of the public now favours a change in the law on assisted dying for those, like Phil, who are facing incurable suffering, in at least some circumstances.

Assisted dying is now permitted for terminally ill and incurably suffering people in Canada, Belgium, Italy, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands. It is also permitted specifically for specifically terminally ill people in Colombia, ten US jurisdictions, and the Australian state of Victoria.

Phil is being supported by the campaign group My Death, My Decision, who unlike some other right-to-die organisations, do not believe that assisted dying should be restricted to only those who are terminally ill with a prognosis of six months or less.

Earlier in the day, Phil Newby said:

‘By bringing this case I’m laying down the gauntlet, asking our most senior judges to examine the evidence on assisted dying in detail.
I am hugely thankful to everyone who has helped me get this far. Many of those who have donated to support the case have direct experience of our outdated and cruel law. Reading the comments of supporters on Crowd Justice is both heart-breaking and stirring. Like me, some are staring into a bleak future where no choice exists for a dignified death. Others are the traumatised loved ones of terminally ill people who felt they had no option but to end their own lives. I sincerely hope that the court will grant permission so that all the issues can be fully aired with my lawyers having the chance to cross-examine the witnesses who argue against a change in the law and the government having the same right with my expert witnesses.’

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

‘Phil Newby faces an inexcusably cruel dilemma. Until the law changes, his only options in due course are to die through the painful process of starvation or through the indignity of succumbing to his illness. Years have now passed since Parliament last considered this issue, and new evidence has emerged from progressive countries, including Canada, which demonstrate that robust safeguards can be balanced alongside respect for autonomy.

Nearly 90% of the public now agree that those facing incurable suffering deserve the right to a peaceful, painless, and dignified death, in at least some circumstances. We strongly hope that our courts will use this opportunity before them, and act in the interests of reason and empathy by agreeing to examine the evidence put before them.

We believe that adults of sound mind, who are either terminally ill or facing incurable suffering, deserve the right to safeguarded assisted dying. That is why we support both Phil Newby’s and Paul Lamb’s legal cases.’

NOTES
For further comment or information or requests for interviews, please contact My Death, My Decision’s Campaigns and Communications Manager Keiron McCabe at keiron.mccabe@mydeath-mydecision.org.uk or phone 020 7324 3001.

Details of the Case
Phil Newby, 49, a father of two from Rutland, was diagnosed with the progressive and degenerative medical condition, motor neurone disease in 2014. He is represented by Saimo Chahal QC of Bindmans LLP, Paul Bowen QC of Brick Court Chambers, Adam Wagner of Doughty Street Chambers, and Jennifer Macleod of Brick Court.

Phil is a member of and supported by the campaign groups My Death, My Decision (MDMD), Friends At The End (FATE), and Dignity in Dying.

If successful, Phil’s case would allow adults of sound mind the ability to request an assisted death, in circumstances where they suffer from an incurable disease which causes them unbearable suffering and cannot otherwise be palliated.

On 21 May 2019, Phil submitted an application to judicially review Section 2(1) of the 1961 Suicide Act. The court was invited to grant a declaration of incompatibility under the Human Rights Act 1998, on the grounds that the 1961 Suicide Act is incompatible with Phil’s rights under Article 2 (right to life) and Article 8 (right to a private and family life). In addition, the court was also invited to allow a preliminary issue of cross-examining expert witnesses to be appealed directly to the UK Supreme Court. On 27 September, the High Court handed down a judgment denying permission for the case to proceed.

On Tuesday 22 October, Phil’s legal team attended the High Court to appeal this decision. If permission is granted, a full hearing of the case will follow.

For legal comment or interviews with Phil Newby’s legal team at Bindmans LLP, please contact Saimo Chahal QC at s.chahal@bindmans.com or by telephone on +44 20 7833 4433

The law on assisted dying in the UK
Under section 2(1) and 2(2A) of the 1961 Suicide Act, it is unlawful in England and Wales to encourage or assist someone to end their life. Anyone found guilty of an act ‘capable of encouraging or assisting the suicide or attempted suicide of another’ can face up to 14 years’ imprisonment.

Following Debbie Purdy’s case, the then Director of Public Prosecutions, Sir Keir Starmer MP, issued guidance on factors indicating when a prosecution will and will not be brought for assisting another to die. One factor tending against prosecution is when a ‘suspect was wholly motivated by compassion’. Consequently, between April 2009 and January 2019, there have been 148 cases of assisted dying referred to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) by the police, but only 2 successful prosecutions.

In 2014, Jane Nicklinson, the widow of locked-in sufferer Tony Nicklinson, and Paul Lamb, who is paralysed from the neck down, challenged the law on assisted dying in the Supreme Court. The court held that Parliament should be afforded the opportunity to debate the issue before the courts would rule on whether the law is incompatible with the rights of those who are both terminally ill and facing incurable suffering.

In 2015, parliament rejected by 330 against to 118 in favour, Rob Marris’ private members’ bill to legalise assistance for those who were terminally ill and likely to die within 6 months.

Under Section 1(2) of the 1982 Forfeiture Act, an individual who assists a loved one to end their life abroad can have their inheritance withheld, even if the CPS deems that it is not in the public interest to bring forth a prosecution.

Recent Developments
In September, the Quebec Superior Court struck down a restriction under Canada’s law on assisted dying, against those with progressive and incurable illnesses. Following the judgment, unless the Federal Government challenges the decision within six-months, those with intolerable but non-life threatening conditions will be able to request an assisted death. Also in September, Italy’s constitutional court held that people should not always be punished for assisting another to die, if a person is in a state of intolerable and irreversible suffering.

In July, My Death, My Decision’s patron, Paul Lamb, who is paralysed from the neck-down, separately applied to the High Court to challenge the UK’s law on assisted dying.

In June, the British Medical Association and Royal College of GPs announced that they would poll their members on assisted dying. Their announcement follows the Royal College of Physicians ending their long-standing opposition to assisted dying and adopting a neutral position in March 2019.

About My Death, My Decision
My Death, My Decision is a grassroots non-profit that campaigns for a balanced and compassionate approach to assisted dying in the UK. We believe that everyone deserves access to excellent palliative care but that adults of sound mind, who are either terminally ill or facing incurable suffering, should have the right to a peaceful, painless, and dignified death. Through the work of our members, supporters, patrons, and activists we help to broaden the public debate on assisted dying and seek to secure changes in the law.

Read more about how nearly 90% of the public support an inclusive change in the law.
Read more about how one Briton a week now ends their life in Switzerland.
Read more about My Death, My Decision’s campaign for an inclusive change in the law:
https://www.mydeath-mydecision.org.uk/ 

Italy’s highest court decriminalises assisted dying for the incurably suffering

The post Italy’s highest court decriminalises assisted dying for the incurably suffering appeared first on Humanists UK.

Italy’s constitutional court has ruled that assisting a person who is in a state of intolerable and irreversible suffering to end their life is not always a crime, in a landmark judgment that could see Italy legalise assisted dying.

The judgment, handed down yesterday, follows an appeal by right-to-die activist Marco Cappato who admitted to helping Italian celebrity, Fabiano Antoniani (known as DJ Fabio), to die in Switzerland in 2017, after he had become quadriplegic and blind from a car accident in 2014.

Humanists UK, which campaigns for assisted dying for people who are terminally ill and incurably suffering, has welcomed the decision. Humanists UK is supporting Paul Lamb in his bid to change the law on assisted dying in the UK.

Last year, Italy’s highest court suspended judgment in Cappato’s case, and instructed Parliament to resolve the issue of assisted dying within a year. Prior to the court’s decision this week, assisted dying had been illegal and those found guilty could face between five and twelve years’ imprisonment.

In the court’s statement, it said that following the inaction of Italy’s Parliament, people should no longer always be punished for helping the ‘autonomous and freely formed [wish]’ of a patient to die, and anyone who ‘facilitates the suicidal intention… of a patient kept alive by life-support treatments and suffering from an irreversible pathology should not be punished under certain conditions’. These include an ‘irreversible [condition, causing] physical or psychological suffering that he [or she] considers intolerable’, and a requirement that the patient be ‘fully capable of making free and conscious decisions’.

Italy is now the sixth country where assisted dying is permitted for both the terminally ill and incurably suffering, alongside countries such as Belgium, Canada, and the Netherlands, and assisted dying is legal for terminally ill people in ten US jurisdictions, Colombia, and the Australian state of Victoria.

The court’s ruling will now be debated in Italy’s parliament, who have the option of introducing different legislation, and Marco Cappato is expected to be acquitted by a lower court when his sentence is later determined.

Humanists UK’s Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson said,

‘We welcome this news as yet another example of the growing international consensus towards legalising a safeguarded right-to-die law for both those who are terminally ill and those facing incurably suffering. Nearly 90% of the public now agree that the right to choose how we die should be seen as a fundamental human right in the UK, and we are supporting Paul Lamb’s legal case to help make it a reality.

‘Just as compassion for ending the suffering of others has motivated people to support assisted dying for those who are terminally ill, so too should it for those who are incurably suffering like Paul.’

NOTES

For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK press manager Casey-Ann Seaniger at casey@humanism.org.uk or phone 020 7324 3078.

Read our previous news item on Paul Lamb’s legal case.

Read more about Humanists UK’s campaign for assisted dying reform.

Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by over 85,000 members and supporters, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. We provide ceremonies, pastoral care, education, and support services benefitting over a million people every year and our campaigns advance humanist thinking on ethical issues, human rights, and equal treatment for all.

Canadian court rules in favour of assisted dying for the incurably suffering

The post Canadian court rules in favour of assisted dying for the incurably suffering appeared first on My Death, My Decision.

The Quebec Superior Court has struck down a restriction under Canada’s law on assisted dying against those with progressive and incurable illnesses as unconstitutional.

Under Canada’s 2015 law, adults who are of sound mind can voluntarily request an assisted death, if they suffer from a grievous and irremediable medical condition, and are in a state of irreversible decline, enduring intolerable suffering, and their ‘natural death has become reasonably foreseeable’. Between June 2016 and October 2018, 5085 Canadians ended their life via an assisted death, accounting on average for 0.77% of all deaths.

However, following a legal challenge from intolerably suffering Canadians, both suffering from non-life threatening conditions, Quebec’s highest trial court has ruled that ‘the reasonably foreseeable natural death requirement deprives both individuals and claimants of their autonomy and their choice to end their lives at the time and in the manner desired.’

Jean Truchon, 49, who is almost completely paralysed, and Nicole Gladu, 73, who suffers from post-polio argued that the requirement of a reasonably foreseeable death was out of step with the landmark Carter v Canada ruling which paved the way for legal assisted dying.

Suspending the ruling for six months to allow Canada’s parliament to deal with its fallout, Justice Christine Badouin ruled that Jean Truchon and Nicole Gladu could proceed with an assisted death, and noted that ‘the statutory provision requiring natural death be reasonably foreseeable infringes life, liberty and security of the person guaranteed by Section 7 of the Charter to Mr. Jean Truchon and Ms. Nicole Gladu, in a manner inconsistent with the principles of fundamental justice’.

Nearly 90% of the public now favours a change in the law on assisted dying in the UK. The Canadian ruling follows the launch of two legal cases in the UK to legalise assisted dying for both the incurably suffering and terminally ill from a tetraplegic man, Paul Lamb, and Phil Newby, who suffers from motor-neurone disease.

Assisted dying is now legal for terminally ill and incurably suffering people in the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, and Switzerland; it is also legal for specifically terminally ill people in Colombia, ten US jurisdictions, and the Australian state of Victoria.

The Canadian government can now decide whether to appeal the judgement or not.

Trevor Moore, Chair of My Death, My Decision, an organisation that campaigns to legalise assisted dying for both the terminally ill and incurably suffering said:

“We warmly welcome the judgement of the Quebec Superior Court, and its decision to defend both the rights of those who are terminally ill or facing incurable suffering, as this marks yet another important step forward within the international consensus, towards a kinder and fairer law on assisted dying.

An overwhelming majority of the public now favours changing the law on safeguarded assisted dying to enable those living in unbearable and incurable suffering the right to decide the manner and timing of their own death. Just as compassion has motivated others to support assisted dying in the past for those who are terminally ill, it is time for our Parliament to speak up for those facing incurable suffering, such as the late Tony Nicklinson, and now Paul Lamb and Phil Newby.”

Open Letter to the Secretary of State for Justice

The post Open Letter to the Secretary of State for Justice appeared first on My Death, My Decision.

To mark the tenth anniversary of Debbie Purdy’s landmark assisted dying case, which resulted in the current Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) guidelines on the Assisted Suicide law, My Death, My Decision has published an open letter to the incoming Secretary of State for Justice, Rt Hon Robert Buckland QC MP,  calling for a review into the working of the Assisted Suicide law in England and Wales. The Guardian published the letter on the anniversary date of 30th July. The call follows a recent parliamentary debate on the issue in which MPs made a similar call.

The full text of the letter is available here. The list of signatories is diverse and impressive, indicating the range of support MDMD has for its position and its growing influence. In addition to MDMD Chair Trevor Moore, the signatories include:

Medical Professionals:
Sir Iain Chalmers – Founder of the Cochrane Collaboration and acting coordinator of the James Lind Initiative
Dr Phil Hammond – Physician, Broadcaster, Comedian and Commentator
Dr Michael Irwin – Former Medical Director United Nations
Dr Henry Marsh – Physician and Author
Professor David Nutt – President of the European Brain Council
Professor Wendy Savage – General Medical Council and British Medical Association’s Ethics Committee Member
other members of MDMD’s Medical Group.

Philosophers:
Dr Julian Baggini – Philosopher, Journalist, and co-founder of the Philosophers’ Magazine
Professor A.C Grayling – Philosopher, Journalist, and founder of the New College of Humanities

Church Leaders:
Rev’d Canon Rosie Harper – Canon of Christ Church, Vicar of Great Missenden, Chaplain to the Bishop of Buckingham and member of the General Synod.
Rev’d Scott McKenna – Minister Mayfield Salisbury Church

Legal:
Professor Emily Jackson – UK Legal Scholar

Media:
Virginia Ironside – Journalist
Polly Toynbee – Journalist and Author
Andi Reiss – Independent film maker who made the documentary ‘Endgame‘.

Campaigners:
Andrew Copson – Chief Executive Humanists UK (Humanists UK is MDMD’s Assisted Dying Coalition Partner Organisation in England and Wales)
Paul Lamb – Currently bringing an Assisted Dying Court case.
Phil Newby – Currently bringing an Assisted Dying Court case.
Jane and Lauren Nicklinson – Assisted Dying Campaigners (Widow and Daughter of  Tony Nicklinson who brought an Assisted Dying Court Case)
Omar Puente – Assisted Dying Campaigner (Widower of Debbie Purdy)
MDMD supporters who have accompanied a relative to Switzerland for a medically assisted death that would not be permissible under a law limited to those with a life expectancy of 6 months or less, (as is the case in Oregon and which was rejected by the UK parliament in September 2015).

Other MDMD Patrons not included above:
Miriam Margolyes – Actor
Lord Martin Rees – Cross-bencher House of Lords

MDMD are most grateful to all signatories in coming together to support this call.

Friends at the End Announces Support for New Legal Challenge

Friends at the End is supporting a new legal challenge, launched by Phil Newby, to change assisted dying laws for those with long-term degenerative conditions.

Phil Newby was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease in 2014 at the age of 43, and since then has battled against the odds of his prognosis, which had given him just 2-3 years to live. Despite his resilience, Phil’s condition is slowly deteriorating; over the last five years he has gradually lost the use of his arms and can no longer walk. Unfortunately, his standard of living will only get worse.

Phil is an ardent lover of life and enjoys supporting and spending time with his wife and two daughters. It is this love of life and family that has driven Phil to seek to change the law on assisted dying. As the law currently stands, Phil will be forced to slowly lose his freedom and enter into a life of suffering, no longer able to do the things he once loved. Rather than have the end of his life punctuated by suffering and indignity, he wants the right to choose the time and circumstances of his death- to die peacefully, surrounded by family.

Phil is looking to raise £20,000 to cover the initial costs of his legal challenge, which seeks to change the law to give individuals with terminal long-term degenerative conditions access to assisted dying. Phil has brought together a highly skilled legal team and will be represented by Saimo Chahal QC (Hon), a partner at Bindmans LLP, and counsel Paul Bowen QC of Brick Court Chambers, who, together, have a wealth of experience with assisted dying cases. Having learnt much from previous cases the legal team will be approaching Phil’s case from a new angle and hope to carefully dismantle the Government’s former objections.

Friends at the Ends is proud to announce that it will donate £500 towards Phil’s legal fees. It is time for a compassionate and dignified approach to assisted dying. We hope that Phil’s case will provide a legal basis for assisted dying, and that a full and fair treatment of the facts in a court of law will put to rest some of the mischaracterisation that has marred much of the assisted dying debate.

Over 80% of the public support assisted dying and the law needs to change to reflect the views of those who are governed by it. Cases like Phil’s highlight the indignity of the current situation; no one with a degenerative condition should be forced, by law, to suffer. It is only right that we put our full support behind his case and make life more tolerable for those in the most challenging of circumstances.

You can support Phil’s case through his CrowdJustice fundraising page.

The post Friends at the End Announces Support for New Legal Challenge appeared first on Friends at the End.

MPs from all parties call for assisted dying reform

The post MPs from all parties call for assisted dying reform appeared first on Humanists UK.

Yesterday the House of Commons debated England and Wales’s law prohibiting assisted dying for the first time in over four years. MPs from all major political parties called for reform to the prohibitive law. Humanists UK welcomed MPs’ support on this important issue and also called for the law to be reformed.

Nick Boles MP, who called the debate, asked the Secretary of State for Justice to initiate a formal call for evidence on the impact of the UK’s existing law. Several All Party Parliamentary Humanist Group (APPHG) MPs also spoke out in favour of reform, including Chair Crispin Blunt MP, Vice Chair Jeff Smith MP, Karin Smyth MP, Jim Fitzpatrick MP, Andy Slaughter MP, and Steve McCabe MP.

Steve McCabe, who had previously voted against changing the law, acknowledged his views on assisted dying had changed. He said:

‘Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to listen to tetraplegic Paul Lamb, who spoke at a humanist event in the House, and I was very moved by the case that this very rational and sane man made…Paul has been living with his condition for 29 years. He is in intolerable pain that can sometimes only be controlled with very strong medication, which blurs his consciousness and limits his life experiences. He wants the right to choose, if he reaches a stage where he has no quality of life.

‘We need to focus on quality of life, capacity for life and the rational, sound judgement of a person who makes such a decision. Life expectancy in itself does not tell us anything about suffering. We should be considering assisted dying both in the context of terminal illness and in the context of suffering and a lack of meaningful life. That is especially true when we are talking about progressive conditions, conditions such as locked-in syndrome or intolerable suffering.’

The latest pressure to review the law in England and Wales follows on from the announcement that Paul Lamb, who challenged the UK’s law on assisted dying before the Supreme Court in 2014, has now lodged papers with the High Court to bring forth a fresh legal case. Paul is being supported by Humanists UK and represented by the law firm, Leigh Day.

Humanists UK’s Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson said:

‘The growing support for assisted dying amongst our elected representatives demonstrates that the tide is now turning. An increasing number of progressive countries have now legalised the right to die, prominent medical opinion has shifted, and public opinion has reached a record high level of support.

‘As politicians increasingly accept that those who are in constant and unbearable pain deserve the right to determine the manner and timing of their own death, the case for a compassionate law permitting adults of sound mind, who are either terminally ill or incurably suffering, the option of an assisted death continues to grow.’

NOTES

For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK press manager Casey-Ann Seaniger at casey@humanism.org.uk or phone 020 7324 3078 or 07393 344293.

Read the transcript of the debate.

Read more about Humanists UK’s campaign for assisted dying reform.

Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by over 85,000 members and supporters, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. We provide ceremonies, pastoral care, education, and support services benefitting over a million people every year and our campaigns advance humanist thinking on ethical issues, human rights, and equal treatment for all.

BMA to poll members on assisted dying

The post BMA to poll members on assisted dying appeared first on My Death, My Decision.

MDMD is greatly encouraged in its campaign by the news that both the BMA and RCGP are to consult their members on their view of assisted dying. Precise details are yet to be announced and we will follow these developments closely.

Earlier this year the RCP poll resulted in a move from opposed to neutral, reflecting the divided views of its members. In the run up to that vote, those opposed to a change in the law mounted a very vocal opposition campaign in the hope of preventing the RCP changing its position. Their views do not represent the majority of people in the UK – the patients – who want to exercise choice over their own end of life as part of the patient-centred healthcare they expect. A MDMD poll recently demonstrated very strong support for various forms of assisted dying, including those covering people with early stage dementia and people who were incurably suffering but not expected to die within a short period of time.

In the past some doctors have expressed concern that an assisted dying law that uses a life expectancy prognosis as one of its criteria would be very hard for them to implement. Last year this concern was used by Scottish doctors to successfully argue for a broader definition of “terminal illness” in Scotland. When Canada passed its Medical Aid in Dying legislation it was limited to those whose “natural death has become reasonably foreseeable”. Both these examples show ways in which this particular medical objection can be overcome. MDMD support these moves, though we also campaign for assisted dying legislation to apply to those who are incurably suffering whether or not they are “terminally ill” – people like Paul Lamb, Omid T, Debbie Purdy and Tony Nicklinson, whose plight caused ex-Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey to change his view to support a change in the law on assisted dying.

The post BMA to poll members on assisted dying appeared first on My Death, My Decision.

Justice Secretary David Gauke signals personal support for assisted dying reforms

The post Justice Secretary David Gauke signals personal support for assisted dying reforms appeared first on Humanists UK.

Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor David Gauke has signalled his personal support for reform of the UK’s assisted dying laws, adding that he is in ‘favour of reforms in this area’.

His comments, which appeared in the print version of The Express yesterday, are the first time such a senior Government minister has come out in support of assisted dying. It is also notable as Mr Gauke is currently considering a challenge from Paul Lamb, who Humanists UK is supporting in his fresh bid to change the law on assisted dying.

Mr Gauke’s personal support for assisted dying was revealed when he responded to a plea by a terminally ill man, Geoffrey Whaley. Mr Whaley wrote to the Justice Secretary before he died in Switzerland in February.

In his response yesterday, David Gauke wrote:

‘Personally I am in favour of reform in this area, and sympathise with calls to allow individuals choice over how to end their lives without fear of criminal prosecution, for themselves or those close to them.”

‘Whilst Parliament has so far voted against any relaxation of the law, I hope that assisted dying is an issue to which it will return.

‘In the meantime, I assure you that I and others do hear Mr Whaley’s plea.’

Paul Lamb, paralysed from the neck down, wrote to Mr Gauke on 3 May asking for him to make clear the Government’s plans to look into assisted dying.  If a satisfactory response is not received from the government to Paul’s letter, Paul intends to apply to the court to seek a judicial review of the current legislation. Paul argues that the law should be changed to allow assisted dying to be legal for those in his position and the terminally ill.

Responding to the Lord Chancellor’s comments on assisted dying, Humanists UK Chief Executive Andrew Copson said:

‘I hope that the rationality and compassion of David Gauke finds more and more support among his fellow parliamentarians. They have it in their power to give people like Paul the dignity of a choice to end their suffering and they should grasp the nettle. Their inaction is a moral stain on our nation.’

NOTES:

For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK press manager Casey-Ann Seaniger at casey@humanism.org.uk or phone 020 7324 3078 or 07393 344293.

Find out about Paul Lamb’s new legal bid: https://humanism.org.uk/2019/05/07/paul-lamb-to-bring-new-legal-case-for-the-right-to-die/

Read more about Paul Lamb: https://humanism.org.uk/about/our-people/patrons/paul-lamb/

Read more about Humanists UK’s campaign for assisted dying reform: https://humanism.org.uk/campaigns/public-ethical-issues/assisted-dying/

Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by over 85,000 members and supporters, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. We provide ceremonies, pastoral care, education, and support services benefitting over a million people every year and our campaigns advance humanist thinking on ethical issues, human rights, and equal treatment for all.

Paul Lamb to bring new legal case for the right to die

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Paul Lamb, paralysed from the neck down, is bringing a new legal case against the Secretary of State for Justice, challenging the law on assisted dying in the UK. He is being supported by Humanists UK and represented by law firm, Leigh Day.

Paul, 63, was severely injured in a car accident in 1990 and has no function below his neck apart from limited movement in his right hand. He requires around the clock care and lives in constant pain.

Paul knows, as he gets older, he will inevitably want assistance to die. Paul wants to be able to end his life at the time and in the manner of his choosing. He argues that the current law – which prohibits any assistance under threat of up to fourteen years’ imprisonment – breaches his human right to a private life.

Alongside Jane Nicklinson, the widow of locked-in sufferer Tony Nicklinson, Paul Lamb previously challenged the UK’s 1961 Suicide Act in a case to the Supreme Court in 2014, and the European Court of Human Rights in 2015. With a notable dissent from the now President of the Supreme Court, Lady Hale, the Supreme Court held that Parliament must be afforded an opportunity to debate the issue before the courts decide whether to declare the current law incompatible with Paul’s human rights and those who find themselves in a similar position.

In 2015, the House of Commons debated but rejected a proposal from Rob Marris MP, which would have legalised assisted dying for those who are likely to die within six months, by 330 votes to 118.

In a letter sent to Justice Secretary David Gauke MP on 3 May 2019, Paul argues that the Suicide Act 1961 is incompatible with Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights, read with Article 8. Article 14 provides a qualified right not to be discriminated against on the ground of disability in respect of the enjoyment of other Convention rights. Article 8 encompasses the right to decide how and when to die, and in particular, the right to avoid a distressing and undignified end to life provided that the decision is made freely.

In the letter before action Mr Lamb asks the Secretary of State to ‘concede that sections 2(1), 2A(1) and 2B of the Suicide Act are incompatible with Articles 8 and 14… and undertake to take timely steps to remedy the incompatibility, either by employing the remedial power provided by section 10(2) of the Human Rights Act 1998 or by introducing and promoting an appropriate bill in Parliament.’

If a satisfactory response is not received from the government, Paul intends to apply to the court to seek a judicial review of the current legislation. Paul argues that the law should be changed to allow assisted dying to be legal for those in his position and the terminally ill.

Assisted dying is now legal in this form in five countries, most recently Canada, and is also legal for terminally ill people specifically in one country, nine US jurisdictions, and soon to be in the Australian state of Victoria.

Commenting on his decision Paul Lamb said:

‘I am paralysed from the neck down and live in a state of constant pain. In the future my suffering will inevitably become too much to bear. When that happens, I want to be able to control and choose the circumstances of my death. As the law stands, my only option would be to die through the inhumane process of dehydration and starvation. This situation cannot be allowed to continue.

‘Five years ago, I asked our courts to give me the right to control my own death and they told me to wait. Since then I have watched and waited as new evidence has emerged and progressive countries have given millions of others the choice I have asked for. And still the UK Parliament has done nothing. I have no option but to ask the Court to intervene again. I need them to help me, and many others in my position, to end this cruel and discriminatory law.’

Humanists UK Chief Executive Andrew Copson said:

‘It is a national disgrace that too many politicians have allowed themselves to turn a blind eye to the suffering of those like Paul for so long and instead rely upon our courts.

‘The right to die in a manner and timing of your own choice is a fundamental human right, which the UK has neglected for too long. It should not depend upon your ability to afford travel to Switzerland, nor force families into a heart-wrenching dilemma between letting their loved ones suffer, or supporting them and risking criminal investigation.

‘We are delighted by the news that Paul intends to bring this landmark case and challenge such a heartless law. Paul’s case seeks a more compassionate law, as it will give those who are terminally ill or incurably suffering the dignity they deserve. We will back him at every stage.’

Rosa Curling, solicitor at law firm Leigh Day who is representing Paul, said:

‘For many years, our client has patiently waited for Parliament to address the issue of whether section 2 of the Suicide Act should be relaxed or modified. But the pain and suffering he experiences, on a daily basis, means he cannot wait any longer. He believes the time is now right for the courts to intervene and declare section 2 incompatible with Articles 8 and 14 of European Convention on Human Rights because it unlawfully discriminates against seriously disabled people who wish to end their lives.’

NOTES:

For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK press manager Casey-Ann Seaniger at casey@humanism.org.uk or phone 020 7324 3078 or 07393 344293. To request an interview with Paul, further comment from him, or video footage, contact Humanists UK at the above number.

The case will be between Paul Lamb and the Secretary of State for Justice. Paul has written to the Secretary of State under the pre-action protocol. Assuming the Secretary of State does not provide him with a satisfactory response (see above), papers may be issued asking the courts to decide whether the case should be given permission to proceed.

Paul Lamb is represented by Rosa Curling of Leigh Day, Philip Havers QC of 1 Crown Office, Adam Sandell of Matrix Chambers, and Eesvan Krishnan of Blackstone Chambers. Ms Curling, Mr Havers, and Mr Sandell previously acted for the claimant known as ‘Martin’ during the 2014 Supreme Court case.

Paul Lamb’s case is different from a case brought by humanist Noel Conway in 2018, supported by Dignity in Dying. Noel was only seeking a change in the law, which would have enabled those who were likely to die within six months, assistance to die. Unlike Mr Conway, Paul Lamb does not require a non-invasive ventilator, the presence of which we understand is one of the reasons why Noel was refused permission to have his case heard by the Supreme Court.

Read more about Paul Lamb: https://humanism.org.uk/about/our-people/patrons/paul-lamb/

New figures released by the Assisted Dying Coalition, of which Humanists UK is a member, found that more than one British person a week now travels to Switzerland to end their life.

Read more about Humanists UK’s campaign for assisted dying reform: https://humanism.org.uk/campaigns/public-ethical-issues/assisted-dying/

Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by over 85,000 members and supporters, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. We provide ceremonies, pastoral care, education, and support services benefitting over a million people every year and our campaigns advance humanist thinking on ethical issues, human rights, and equal treatment for all.