Legal reforms on assisted dying are urgently needed, including to distinguish between cases of ‘mercy killing’ and murder, the British Humanist Association (BHA) has said today. The BHA has made its comments in light of a new legal case launched by Tony Nicklinson which seeks clarity in the law on murder and assisted dying, and ahead of an appeal later today in the case of Frances Inglis, who was given a life sentence earlier this year after being found guilty of murder after giving her permanently brain-damaged son a lethal heroin overdose.
Naomi Phillips, BHA Head of Public Affairs, commented, ‘We need a law on assisted dying that is sensible, ethical and forward-thinking. Legal cases highlight the need for the law to distinguish between where a person has compassionately assisted another to die, and where that was done with malicious intent or murder. However, it is for parliament to legislate for that change and it has thus far failed to do so, leaving those who help a terminally ill or incurably suffering loved one to die facing life imprisonment, and taking away autonomy and choice for people at end of life.
‘Ultimately, we want assisted dying to be legalised in the UK. Without those legal reforms, those who are vulnerable remain at risk because legal safeguards, which would accompany the legalisation of assisted dying, are not in place to protect them from coercion or other malice. Now is the time for parliamentarians to reform the law to one that upholds people’s fundamental human right to die with dignity, in a manner of their choosing, and protects those who are motivated by compassion to assist another’s death.’
For further comment or information, contact Naomi Phillips on 020 7079 3585 or 07540 257101.
The British Humanist Association is the national charity representing and supporting the interests of ethically concerned, non-religious people in the UK. It is the largest organisation in the UK campaigning for an end to religious privilege and to discrimination based on religion or belief, and for a secular state.