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.

Royal College of General Practitioners maintain opposition to assisted dying

The post Royal College of General Practitioners maintain opposition to assisted dying appeared first on My Death, My Decision.

The Royal College of General Practitioners has maintained its 14-year opposition to assisted dying, despite a majority of GPs voting to support a change in the law or adopt a neutral stance.

The college announced the decision of its executive council, after surveying its 50,000 members on the topic last year.

More than 6000 GPs voted in the online poll:

  • 47% of respondents said that the RCGP should oppose a change in the law on assisted dying;
  • 40% of respondents said the RCGP should support a change in the law on assisted dying, providing there is a regulatory framework and appropriate safeguarding processes in place;
  • 11% of respondents said that the RCGP should have a neutral position and;
  • 2% of respondents abstained from answering

The results mean that the College will continue to lobby MPs against changing laws which make assisted dying punishable by up to 14 years in prison, despite a majority preferring to support reform or set out both sides of the argument.

The Royal College of General Practitioners has opposed assisted dying since 2005 and affirmed its opposition in 2014.

In 2013, after a similar survey, 77% of GPs voted to oppose a change in the law, 18% voted to adopt a neutral stance, and only 5% voted to support changing the law.

The news follows after the Royal College of Physicians voted to drop their longstanding opposition to assisted dying in a similar poll last year, and as members of the British Medical Association, the doctors’ trade union body, continue to vote on whether the BMA should change its stance on assisted dying.

The College will now not review the RCGP’s position on assisted dying for at least five years unless there are significant developments.

Trevor Moore chair of the campaign Group My Death, My Decision said: 

‘We are extremely disappointed that the executive council of the RCGP have decided to ignore the preference of a majority of GPs to either support assisted dying or adopt a neutral stance. This seems undemocratic, given that those who voted in support would obviously agree with at least a neutral position’.

The overwhelming shift in support for assisted dying among GPS reflects a wider trend across our country, as nearly 90% of the public now support legal, safe, and compassionate assisted dying.

Whilst more countries than ever have now legalised assisted dying, including Canada, and demonstrated that the best way to protect everyone is through an open and robust system of safeguards, it is disheartening that the RCGP has adopted a position which will continue to silence many in the medical community who have a conscientious commitment to respect their patients’ autonomy and exercise compassion for who are incurably suffering or terminally ill.’

‘The current law on assisted dying simply isn’t working. It forces those who are incurably suffering or terminally ill to suffer, or choose to die abroad – often putting their loved ones at risk of prosecution. There is a better way forward. We will continue to campaign for the adoption of a system akin to that in Canada.’

Act Now: BMA Survey on Assisted Dying Launches Today!

The post Act Now: BMA Survey on Assisted Dying Launches Today! appeared first on Friends at the End.

Please consider writing to your doctor to encourage their support.

Today the British Medical Association will launch their survey on assisted dying. The consultation will close on 27 February and is being run by the independent organisation Kantar.

Doctors will be asked whether the BMA should actively support, oppose, or neither actively support nor oppose (take a neutral stance) on a change in the law to permit doctors to prescribe drugs for adults of sound mind, who are either incurably suffering or terminally ill, to end their life.

The survey will also ask what position members think the organisation should take in regard to doctors administering lethal substances (often known as euthanasia).

You can read more about it here

We have drafted a sample letter below, we would be very grateful if you could send this on to any doctors that you know to encourage their support.

————————

Dear Dr XXX,

The British Medical Association (BMA) is surveying its members on the topic of assisted dying. I hope you don’t mind, but I’m writing to you as your patient/friend to ask you to consider my views when casting your ballot. 

I don’t think it’s right that the UK’s prohibitive assisted dying law means that more than one person a week in the UK travels to Switzerland to end their life. This is double what the number was five years ago, and is despite the best efforts of palliative care. 

There is a better way, and more countries than ever, including Canada, have now legalised assisted dying and demonstrated the best way to protect patients, their families, and doctors through a robust and open system of safeguards.

I’m asking you to support the choice to be given to the terminally ill and incurably suffering to have a legal, compassionate, and safeguarded assisted death, like nearly 90% of the public agree we should.

Please vote in support of assisted dying in the BMA survey.

Yours sincerely

XXX

Court of Appeal rejects Phil Newby’s right-to-die case

Assisted dying campaigner Phil Newby, who suffers from motor neurone disease and has been pushing for a change in the law on assisted dying, has been denied permission by the Court of Appeal.

Phil, 49, a father of two from Rutland, and member of Humanists UK, had asked the court for the right to examine an extensive body of evidence on assisted dying and cross-examine expert witnesses.

Last year, his case had been rejected by the High Court who ruled the issue should be resolved by Parliament instead.

Humanists UK is also working closely with its member Paul Lamb in appealing his case which was rejected by the High Court in December 2019. In 2014 Paul brought a legal case to the Supreme Court, which secured a promise from the court that it would look against the issue should Parliament fail to legislate – making Phil Newby’s case possible.

Last week MPs debated initiating a call for evidence on assisted dying for the first time since Paul and Phil’s cases were heard.

Humanists UK’s Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson said: ‘We are disappointed the Court of Appeal has refused permission to bring Phil’s case, but will continue to support him and Paul Lamb – who we hope has a stronger prospect of success.

‘More countries than ever have now legalised the option of a safeguarded assisted death, and proven that a compassionate law need not come at the expense of robust safeguards. Adults of sound mind, who are incurably suffering or terminally ill, deserve the right to die on their own terms, and it is a disgrace our laws have forced so many to die, with little dignity, for so long.’

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 our previous news item on Phil Newby.

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.

MPs debate assisted dying call for evidence

The post MPs debate assisted dying call for evidence appeared first on My Death, My Decision.

MPs from across the political divide have supported calls for an independent inquiry into assisted dying. My Death, My Decision welcomed MPs’ support on this issue.

In a Westminster Hall debate, Christine Jardine MP, who called for the debate, acknowledged that her own views on assisted dying had changed after the death of her mother and that whilst she may have once been a ‘passive’ supporter she now saw it as incumbent upon herself to take action. In a bid to move beyond the current political impasse among MPs, she called upon the Government to consider formally issuing an investigation into the law on assisted dying as it stands.

She said: ‘Perhaps the cruellest [fact] of all – it [the current law] can all be avoided if you can afford it. The law as it stands has created a two-tier system. If you have more than ten thousand pounds, you can travel to Switzerland or elsewhere for the end of life care of your choice.’ ‘… I have not used a word normally central to this debate and crucial to the campaigns which are going on outwith Parliament – and that word is compassion. That omission, on my part, is deliberate because for me in our law as it stands there is no compassion.’

Among other MPs who spoke in support of assisted dying, new MP Alicia Kearns spoke in support of Phil Newby, My Death, My Decision’s member, saying: ‘I’ve been struck by Phil’s considered and measured case and it sits with us to make a decision. The crux of the matter to me is to recognise the terror and agony to have your body turn on you and to wrack you with pain or torture you; for those suffering debilitating and terminal diseases are not just being robbed of life but also death.’

Later adding: ‘To come to terms with one’s own death, to depart this life in peace and dignity is a privilege I believe we should endeavour as a society to extend, not limit’.

The latest pressure to review a change in the law follows after Phil Newby and Paul Lamb recently both had permission rejected by the High Court to challenge the UK’s prohibitive law.

Despite efforts last year to call for an objective assessment of the law, including an open letter organised by My Death, My Decision and signed by a diverse range of thirty-four doctors, politicians, religious leaders, academics, and campaigners, the Justice Minister, Chris Philp, said the government was neutral in the debate and had no intention of introducing legislation.

Trevor Moore, Chair of the campaign group My Death, My Decision said: 

‘Dying with dignity, in a manner of our own choosing, is a fundamental human right. It has now been almost half a decade since Parliament last examined the issue of assisted dying – and the evidence has changed. Progressive countries, including Canada, have proven a balance can be struck between stringent safeguards and respect for individual autonomy, medical opinion has shifted, new evidence has debunked claims palliative care and assisted dying are incompatible, and the number of Britons forced to end their life abroad has doubled to more than one person a week.

Public opinion has now reached a record high and nearly 90% of the public support a change in the law. But, regardless of one’s view, we’d all surely agree assisted dying deserves a serious and robust discussion – our MPs need to be equipped with the latest impartial, independent and objective evidence.

A call for evidence is essential.

Blog: What is a Good Death?

The post Blog: What is a Good Death? appeared first on Friends at the End.

What is a good death?

A good death means something different to everyone. Some people may relish in the sound of grandchildren running around their home, filling it with life and laughter, whereas some may prefer the peace, quiet and support of a hospice. For others, it could mean refusing treatment or putting a DNACPR in place.

A good death is personal to the individual.

How can you achieve a good death?

There’s a lot of options available to suit
your personal needs. These are some of the common things that contribute to the
idea of a ‘good death’:

Medical affairs

Having an Advanced Care Plan in place and
specifying your final medical care decisions, as well as considering ways to
control pain and discomfort, can ensure your end of life care happens on your
own terms. It also allows for dignity to remain intact, whatever that looks
like to you. Think about your personal care preferences and document these via
your ACP.

Also thinking about who you want to be cared for by, for example a doctor,
nurses, home carers or your family and friends. You have the choice of where
you want to be in your final days, this may be at home, in a care home, in a
hospice or hospital.

Legal affairs

There are things you can have in place, such
as an up to date will, that reduces the amount of stress at the end of your
life and ensures your estate is distributed in the way you want it to be. However,
only 38% of people in the UK have written a will.[1]

Appointing a Power of Attorney for health and finance also ensures that your wishes and decisions are carried out by someone you trust. Find out more about Power of Attorney here.

Funeral wishes

Thinking about your funeral can take some of
the pressures of your family or relatives. There’s a lot of choice for what
your funeral can look like nowadays – just have a look online and you’ll be
astounded at some of the wonderfully wacky conceptions available! Do you want a
traditional funeral, memorial, or cremation? Or perhaps you will choose to not
have one at all. You can tell a loved one your funeral wishes or write them
down. It is also possible to organise your own funeral; this ensures the
financial pressures aren’t passed onto your family.

Favourite activities and objects

Thinking about what activities, experiences
or objects would be most pleasing and comforting in your final days is
important. This might be listening to a favourite artist or album, reading a
favourite book, enjoying good food and drink. It might also mean being
surrounded by particular photographs or a vase of flowers. As well as, thinking
about who you would like to see in your final days.

Prepare emotionally

Along with the practical matters of having
one’s affairs in order, it’s equally important to prepare for death
emotionally. Spending time with your loved ones toward the end of life can help
with this. Ira Byock’s The Four Things That Matter Most are often quoted
in the context of achieving a good death. Byock states a dying person has a
need to express four thoughts the end of life:

1.   I love you

2.   Thank you

3.   I forgive you

4.   Forgive me

Spirituality

Religion or spirituality can also help people find strength and meaning during their final moments. It is important to think about your preferred spiritual or religious beliefs and underpinnings, and how you want these incorporated into your last days. Again, if you feel able, it is best to document and communicate your wishes.

Saying goodbye

Saying goodbye to your family, friends and
pets can be difficult for both you and your loved ones. The finality of it can
be overwhelming. However, many say that once this is done a sense of peace
prevails.

Your death is just that – yours. You can plan
and prepare for it, in any way you wish to. You have the best chance of
achieving a good death when you plan, prepare and are supported to make
decisions. This might mean hard conversations or ensuring you have an up to
date will in place. In the way that we plan for everything else in life, you
can’t just hope for the best. Friends at the End are here to support you with
any or all of these choices, be it a listening ear or more practical help, get
in touch when you feel ready.

Want more?

Follow Friends at the End on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to keep up with our latest news. Find out more about our work here.


[1] https://www.macmillan.org.uk/_images/no-regrets-talking-about-death-report_tcm9-311059.pdf

High Court refuses permission for Paul Lamb’s right-to-die case

The post High Court refuses permission for Paul Lamb’s right-to-die case appeared first on My Death, My Decision.

Today, the High Court has rejected permission for Paul Lamb, a severely disabled man, to challenge the law on assisted dying.

Paul, who is paralysed from the neck down, requires 24-hour care, by a team of seven carers, who wash and feed him and support him in his day-to-day functions.

In rejecting permission for his case, Lord Justice Dingemans and Mrs Justice Laing said that the decisions of previous assisted dying cases provided weighty reasons to justify the current ban on medically assisted dying.

Paul, who is a member of the campaign group My Death, My Decision, argues the current law – which prohibits any assistance under threat of up to fourteen years’ imprisonment – breaches his human rights by discriminating against those who are unable to end their life due to a disability.

He will now have the opportunity to appeal the decision to the Court of Appeal.

According to the UK Assisted Dying Coalition, more than one person a week now travels to Switzerland from Britain for a legal assisted death, which costs around £10,000.

In 2014, alongside Jane Nicklinson, the widow of locked-in sufferer Tony Nicklinson, the former builder from Leeds lost a case before the UK Supreme Court, which had argued the current law breached the right to a private life of those in his position.

However, the Supreme Court held that Parliament must be afforded an opportunity to debate the issue, before the courts decided whether to declare the current law incompatible with Paul’s human rights and those who find themselves in a similar position.

Robert Ince, a spokesperson for the campaign group My Death, My Decision said: 

‘We are extremely disappointed that the courts have once again failed to support the human rights of Paul and give hope to many like him who suffer intolerably.

New evidence from progressive countries including Canada has demonstrated that a transparent and robust set of safeguards is the best way to protect everyone, and that compassion need not come at the expense of protecting others. Nearly 90% of the public now believe adults facing incurable suffering deserve to be treated with respect, dignity, and compassion – but this cannot happen until the law changes.

We will continue to support Paul in his fight against this manifestly unjust law.’

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.

Unlike some right-to-die organisations, we don’t believe that the right to control the manner and timing of your own death should be restricted to those with six or fewer months left to live. 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/

Phil Newby refused permission by High Court to challenge ban on assisted dying

Phil Newby, who has motor neurone disease, has today been refused permission by the High Court to challenge England and Wales’s prohibitive law on assisted dying. Humanists UK has expressed disappointment at the decision, but hopes it doesn’t affect the separate case of Paul Lamb, who is making his challenge on different grounds. Phil also has one more chance to appeal the decision.

Phil is seeking to change the law to 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.

But explaining their decision, the High Court judges said that despite having sympathy for the situation in which he finds himself, the court were bound to refuse permission because of the Court of Appeal’s judgment in Noel Conway’s similar 2018 case.

Phil has announced his intention to challenge this decision in the Court of Appeal – which would be his final chance to gain permission.

The news comes as Humanists UK has urged its members and supporters to write to their GPs to back assisted dying as the Royal College of General Practitioners is surveying its members on the matter.

Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson commented: ‘We are disappointed to hear that Phil Newby has been denied permission at the High Court. The right to choice and control over the manner and timing of your own death should be recognised as a fundamental human right.

‘Nearly 90% of the public now believe that adults of sound mind, who are either incurably suffering or terminally ill, deserve to be treated with respect, dignity, and compassion, and this cannot happen until we change the law. That’s why we are supporting Paul Lamb in his separate legal case to change the UK’s prohibitive assisted dying laws.’

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.

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.