Evidence to the Assisted Dying Commission “emphasises the urgent need for reform” says the BHA

A call for urgent reform of the law in relation to assisted dying by a senior representative of a regional health authority has been welcomed by the British Humanist Association (BHA).

Pauline Smith, the End of Life Lead for NHS West Midlands said yesterday the law was not fit for the 21st century and ‘we really do need to look at a system that allows public and patient choice in ways that the law does not allow at the minute’. 

Ms Smith was clear that although NHS West Midlands does not maintain an official position on assisted dying, changes must be made as there is ‘abuse in the current NHS system’, with some assistance occurring covertly. 

The comments were made before the Commission on Assisted Dying, an independent inquiry being supported by the think-tank Demos, which has also invited the BHA to provide evidence at a future hearing.

Naomi Philips, BHA Head of Public Affairs welcomed the contribution to the debate: ‘Comments such as these from professionals with frontline experience emphasises the urgent need for reform in our approach towards assisted dying.

‘The law as it stands does not respect the autonomy of individuals with terminal or life limiting conditions who make an informed decision that they wish to end their lives. Additionally, friends or relatives who help their relatives travel to jurisdictions where assisted dying is permissible face the additional distress of possible arrest and prosecution. 

Ms Phillips continued: ‘The BHA looks forward to being able to contribute to the Commission shortly, and hope that the weight of evidence will contribute to the argument for a rational, ethical and humane policy on assisted dying.’

Notes

For further comment or information, contact Naomi Phillips on 020 7079 3585.

Learn more about the BHA’s work on Assisted Dying

Read more about the Commission on Assisted Dying on their website

Read the Telegraph’s article on Pauline Smith’s evidence to the hearing

The British Humanist Association (BHA) is the national charity representing and supporting the non-religious and campaigning for an end to religious privilege and discrimination. It is the largest organisation in the UK campaigning for a secular state.