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.

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

The post Royal Paul Lamb to bring new legal case for the right to die appeared first on Humanists UK.

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.

New Jersey Legalises Assisted Dying

The post New Jersey Legalises Assisted Dying appeared first on My Death, My Decision.

On 12th April 2019 the Governor of the US state of New Jersey, Phil Murphy, signed a bill into law which allows assisted suicide for those who have mental capacity, are terminally ill, and are within six months of dying. The law is based on a similar law in Oregon which has been in force for over 20 years.

New Jersey is the 8th US state to pass this form of legislation, following Oregon (1994); Washington (2004); Vermont (2014); California (2016); Colorado (2016); Washington DC (2017) and Hawaii (2018). The addition of New Jersey, brings the US population with access to assisted dying to almost 70 million – over 20% (1 in 5) of the total population of the USA. (Assisted dying is also permitted in Montana, though this is by virtue of a court ruling rather than legislation.)

In signing the New Jersey Bill, Governor Murphy, a Catholic, is quoted as saying:

“After careful consideration, internal reflection and prayer, I have concluded that, while my faith may lead me to a particular decision for myself, as a public official I cannot deny this alternative to those who may reach a different conclusion.”

“I believe this choice is a personal one and, therefore, signing this legislation is the decision that best respects the freedom and humanity of all New Jersey residents.”

MDMD applauds Governor Murphy for taking this position and sharing his reasoning. It was clearly a difficult personal decision for him, but in putting respect for the autonomy of others above his personal beliefs he demonstrates an important principle that others of faith should follow. His decision also shows compassion for those who need to use this law to enable them to have what for them is a good death.

As an organisation, MDMD welcomes supporters of all faiths and none. We respect the values, choices and traditions of others to make their own end-of-life decisions for themselves. We plead for the type of reciprocal respect and understanding which Governor Murphy has shown in passing this legislation. Unfortunately, many religious leaders and organisations do not share Governor Murphy’s tolerance of other people’s views. Two recent examples of this, concerning the renewed attempt to change the law in Scotland, appear in articles published by the Scottish Catholic Observer and the Christian Institute. It is unfortunate that these bodies fail to show the compassion and respect demanded by 93% of the UK population – a figure which demonstrates just how out of touch the views of those opposed to change are.

Although MDMD welcomes the New Jersey law as a first step towards a more humane approach to dying in the 21st century, we believe that the “Oregon model” approach has significant limitations. Most significantly the 6 month terminal illness criterion excludes many people who quite rationally long for medical assistance to die. In addition, there are concerns over the support and counselling given to those who choose to make use of the law, and the process by which assisted dying drugs are administered. These issues were demonstrated in a Louis Theroux documentary shown on BBC2 in November 2018. MDMD are pleased that these issues are now actively being reviewed in Oregon.

Despite these reservations, the new law in New Jersey is another clear sign of the progress being made by right-to-die campaigners around the world. Progress that, we hope, will one day reach the UK – which is looking increasingly backward on the issue.

Royal College of Physicians moves from hostile to neutral position on assisted dying

The post Royal College of Physicians move from hostile to neutral position on assisted dying appeared first on Humanists UK.

The Royal College of Physicians (RCP) has announced it has adopted a neutral position on assisted dying after a clear majority of respondents to its poll either supported or were neutral towards such a move. Humanists UK warmly welcomes this move, and the wider shift in medical opinion regarding assisted dying.

The RCP poll revealed a leap in support for a change in the law on assisted dying as the number of respondents wanting the RCP to support a change in the law increased by over a quarter, from 24.6% in 2014, when doctors were previously polled about assisted dying, to 31.6% in 2019.

Together, the number of respondents who want the RCP to support or be neutral (25%) towards a change in the law totals 56.6%, a majority of all respondents.

The poll also shows growing support for assisted dying among physicians as the number of respondents who personally supported a change in the law increased by a quarter, from 32.3% in 2014 to 40.5% in 2019.

Humanists UK called on RCP members to vote in support of assisted dying and advised members how to respond to the poll.

A legal challenge headed up by doctors opposed to assisted dying was also today rejected by the High Court.

A recent poll by My Death, My Decision, a partner of Humanists UK in the Assisted Dying Coalition, showed that more than 90% of the UK public now supports assisted dying for certain groups of people, reflecting a growing trend of support for assisted dying across the board.

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

‘We welcome the news that the Royal College of Physicians has adopted a neutral position on assisted dying. We believe terminally ill or incurably suffering individuals who are of sound mind should be empowered to make their own free and informed choices about their options in dying. It is only by giving them this choice that we can guarantee they have dignity, autonomy, and choice in when and how they die.

‘We hope to see medical organisations take note of this and similarly conduct their own polls to best reflect the views of the medical community.’

NOTES:

For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson at richy@humanism.org.uk or phone 020 7324 3072 or 07815589636.

The RCP poll took place from 5 February and 1 March and was responded to by 6,886 members and fellows. The poll required a supermajority of 60% to either support or oppose a change in the law.

Read our previous news item on the RCP poll here:

https://humanism.org.uk/2019/02/21/humanists-uk-calls-on-royal-college-of-physicians-members-to-consider-dignity-compassion-in-assisted-dying-survey/

For more information on our work on assisted dying visit:

https://humanism.org.uk/campaigns/public-ethical-issues/assisted-dying/

At Humanists UK, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. Our 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 our ceremonies, education services, and community and campaigning work, we strive to create a fair and equal society for all.

93% think that assisted dying is acceptable in at least some situations

The post 93% think that assisted dying is acceptable in at least some situations appeared first on My Death, My Decision.

MDMD has released the results of research it sponsored through the National Centre for Social Research (NatCen). The work tested public acceptability of various forms of assisted dying. In all cases considered the person is suffering from an incurable illness and feels their quality of life in below the level they are prepared to accept (or will soon become so). They have sufficient mental capacity to make a life-ending decision and have considered this option carefully, discussing it with professionals who have agreed that their request is within the (hypothetical) law. The different conditions tested were:

  • Those who are suffering from an illness which will eventually cause their death (regardless of timescale).
  • Those who are expected to die from their illness within 6 months.
  • Those whose illness will not cause death
  • Those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease before they lose the mental capacity to make a life ending decision.

The results are discussed in detail here.

What is astounding about these results is the very high level of support for all these forms of assisted dying. Depending on the scenario, between 88% and 93% of respondents thought it acceptable in at least some situations. Comparing results between the scenarios, it demonstrates clearly that public opinion is strongly in favour of the sort of broader approach to assisted dying favoured by MDMD, as opposed to narrower approaches based on the law in Oregon which limit assisted dying to those who are within 6-months of dying. MDMD is proud to be a founder member of the newly formed Assisted Dying Coalition which brings together the UK organisations campaigning for this broader approach to assisted dying.

We were surprised that the research found that the strongest support was for those whose illness would eventually kill them, regardless of timescale. In this situation 93% of respondents thought that a medically assisted death was acceptable in at least some situations. That is a huge majority.

The current law in the UK prevents assisted dying in all situations. Our new research shows that the doctors and politicians who continue to oppose a change in this law are even more out of tune with the people they are supposed to be serving than was previously thought. How can we have confidence in the medical profession if they do not respect our rational end-of-life wishes? How can we have confidence in our politicians if they refuse to change a law which makes some people suffer unnecessarily, against their will at the end of their lives – making others decide to go to Switzerland for medical assistance to end their lives, often too soon?

Palliative care is a wonderful service that helps many people – and could help even more with increased funding. But even the best palliative care can not help in all situations. I recently asked Baroness Finlay, a leading professor of palliative care and strong opponent of assisted dying, how I could avoid an unpleasant end of life like my mother’s, if I too was diagnosed with dementia. Her answer – to look on the internet for illegal lethal drugs – is totally unacceptable and shocking. 88% of people in our poll think that in some situations like this, assisted dying is acceptable. We demand a more compassionate, patient-centred approach to avoiding end-of-life suffering, an approach that includes medical assistance to die as a last resort.

Of course, agreeing that it would be “acceptable for someone to have medical assistance to die” is significantly different from agreeing to a specific change in the law, where all the safeguards have been carefully thought through. But what is clear is that the debate now needs to move on. We should be no longer discussing whether or not assisted dying should be permitted, but instead be working on the details of how assisting dying can be safely and comprehensively introduced, ensuring adequate protection for those who may be vulnerable. In doing so we should learn from other jurisdictions where some form of assisted dying is permitted.

It is bitterly disappointing that the palliative care medical community are so reluctant to talk constructively about improving end-of-life choice when it includes assisted dying. In the eyes of 93% of the people surveyed, that can only undermine the reputation of palliative care. That is unfortunate, as good, comprehensive, patient-centred, palliative care is an important component in ensuring that as many as possible have, what for them, is a good death.