assisted dying legislation

Government to ponder assisted dying legislation in the new year

MPs are considering changing the law around assisted dying next year and have tasked a committee to conduct an review on the matter.

The health and social care committee will invite medical professionals, members of the public and campaign groups before submitting their findings to the government who will then make a decision of what, if any changes should be made.

The UK could become the next in a line of countries to legalise assisted suicide with 27 other countries allowing it to at least some degree, most recently New Zealand in November 2021 following a referendum on the issue. Although, it has been announced that any changes in the UK will be made solely through parliament. 2015 was the last time there was any kind of vote in parliament on the matter, with a vote on allowing doctors to help terminally ill people end their lives being overwhelmingly rejected.

Currently, anyone assisting suicide could face a prison sentence. However, there have only been four successful prosecutions for this crime in the last 13 years, despite there being over 200 cases reported. In 2018 the campaign group My Death, My Decision conducted a poll which found 93% of people found assisted suicide to be acceptable in most, if not all, situations. It was also found most of those surveyed were in favour of changing the law.

The health and social care committee will conduct a full inquiry against concerns people have into assisted suicide, such as coercion, and how to prevent this, and who would be eligible for assisted suicide if the law was to be amended.

Steve Brine, chair of the committee, said:

“The debate on assisted dying and assisted suicide understandably arouses passionate views with many different and equally valid perspectives. It’s an issue that has vexed parliamentarians who have sought a way through the many ethical, moral, practical and humane considerations involved.

What has changed in recent years is that there is now real-world evidence to look at. We will look at the moral, ethical and practical concerns raised in a way that is informed by actual evidence.”

Trevor Moore, the chair of My Death, My Decision, welcomed the inquiry, as he stated:

“Many people who are incurably suffering and people who have witnessed a loved one’s painful death.

I hope [MPs] look at all the international evidence that shows that safe, compassionate assisted dying laws are possible. People who are incurably suffering deserve the right and freedom to make decisions about the end of their lives.”

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