French President Macron has announced plans to introduce an Assisted Dying Bill this summer. This follows the Citizens’ Assembly on assisted dying today issuing its final report. It has recommended that France legalise assisted dying for both the terminally ill and the incurably, intolerably suffering. Humanists UK has welcomed the developments and called for the UK to catch up.
The report also recommended strong improvements are made in palliative care. Macron has asked for the French Government, MPs, and senators to work cross-party and constructively on the draft Bill.
The Citizens’ Assembly had previously voted overwhelmingly in favour of legalising assisted dying. 121 citizens (72%) out of 167 voted in favour.
Run by the Economic, Social, and Environmental Council (CESE), the ‘Convention Citoyenne’ was made up of 185 French citizens who are representative of the general population. Over the course of nine sessions, participants listened to speakers, discussed research and voted on a series of questions about end-of-life choices.
In 2021, a citizens’ jury on the island of Jersey overwhelmingly supported the introduction of assisted legislation, with 78% voting in favour. This led to Jersey’s States Assembly approving assisted dying ‘in principle’ and official legislation is expected to be introduced in 2023. Draft legislation has also been tabled in the Isle of Man. And in Scotland, Humanist Society Scotland last week requested a meeting with new First Minister Humza Yousaf to discuss making parliamentary time for Liam McArthur’s Assisted Dying Bill.
In December, the UK House of Commons’ Health and Social Care Committee launched an inquiry into assisted dying. Humanists UK submitted evidence to the committee but last week it raised concerns that most members of the Committee had previously expressed opposition to assisted dying.
Humanists UK Assisted Dying Campaigner Nathan Stilwell said:
‘As in Jersey, France has shown a democratic way forward for governments to make meaningful progress with important issues of conscience. England and Wales could learn a lot from the French approach; assisted dying legislation in the UK Parliament has been continuously stuck in a loop of Private Members’ Bills without enough time for a meaningful vote.
‘A participant in the Assembly recently told reporters that he had never seen a debate as well-constructed and as devoid of hostility as the Citizens’ Assembly on assisted dying. We heard similar reports from Jersey in 2021.
‘People in the UK deserve the same right to make choices about the end of their lives and there is no good reason to force anyone to live in pain, misery, and indignity after they have made a choice to end their suffering. We hope the current inquiry into assisted dying can learn from the democratic process in France.’
For further comment or information, media should contact Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson at email@example.com or phone 020 7324 3072 or 07534 248 596.
Read more about the announcement (l’Express French language newspaper).
Read more about our campaign to legalise assisted dying in the UK.
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