Assisted dying arrest highlights urgent need for law reform

The arrest of two people who accompanied a man with a terminal condition to Switzerland for an assisted death highlights the need to reform our domestic law, the British Humanist Association (BHA) has commented today. 

Two people have been arrested on suspicion of encouraging or assisting the suicide of a 76-year-old disabled man who travelled to Switzerland to die about 5 weeks ago.

At present, compassionately assisting a terminally ill or incurably suffering person to die is illegal in the UK, and this includes friends and relatives accompanying that person to a jurisdiction such as Switzerland where assisted dying is legal.

Naomi Phillips, BHA Head of Public Affairs, said, ‘We all of us have a fundamental human right to die with dignity, in a manner of our choosing, and those who are motivated by compassion to assist another’s death should be protected from prosecution. It is deeply saddening that that people face the threat of arrest and prosecution, which can presently result in a 14 year custodial sentence, should they accompany loved ones abroad for an assisted death.

‘We need a law on assisted dying that is sensible, ethical and forward-thinking. However, any real and secure change to remove the threat of prosecution must come from parliament, and it is deeply disappointing that so far our elected representatives, and peers, have largely failed to listen to the public who overwhelmingly support reform in the law on assisted dying.’ 

Notes 

For further comment or information, contact Naomi Phillips at [email protected] on 020 7079 3585 or 07540 257101.

Read about the BHA’s position on Assisted Dying http://www.humanism.org.uk/campaigns/ethical-issues/assisted-dying 

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