The All Party Parliamentary Group on Choice at the End of Life has launched a consultation on a draft Bill that would enable mentally competent adults with a terminal condition to seek medical assistance to end their life. The consultation has been welcomed by the British Humanist Association (BHA) as an ‘important step towards an ethical and compassionate law on assisted dying that protects the vulnerable’.
The draft Bill largely draws upon the recommendations of the independent Commission on Assisted Dying, which examined the problematic approach to the issue of assisted dying in the UK. At present, assisting another individual to die remains illegal, however the Director of Public Prosecution’s revised prosecuting guidelines recommend that amateur assistance for compassionate reasons should not be prosecuted, and large numbers seek assistance abroad. As a result, assistance continues to occur, but outside of a legal framework of safeguards that protect the vulnerable.
The draft Bill includes a number of safeguards to minimise the possibility of coercion or abuse. The Bill only applies to individuals who have been diagnosed as terminally ill and are expected to die within one year, and have a clear and settled wish to die.
Commenting on the launch of the Bill and consultation, BHA Head of Public Affairs Pavan Dhaliwal said ‘We were pleased to have an opportunity to provide evidence to the Commission on Assisted Dying, and broadly support many of the proposals outlined in the draft Bill.
However, as with the Commission’s report in January, we also consider that these proposals are too limited, and that there are good ethical reasons not to limit legal assisted dying only to terminally ill people, but to also enable others who are incurably suffering to end their lives.’
Ms Dhaliwal continued ‘The BHA will publish a full response to the consultation at a later date, and we would strongly recommend that supporters of an ethical and compassionate law on assisted dying make their own individual contributions to the consultation process.’
For further comment or information contact Pavan Dhaliwal, Head of Public Affairs at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 0773 843 5059
Following the consultation process, Lord Charlie Falconer intends to sponsor the draft Bill in the House of Lords
Read a full annotated copy of the Bill, including a summary of the proposed safeguards, and respond to the consultation http://www.appg-endoflifechoice.org.uk/bill_consultation
Read more about the BHA’s work on assisted dying
The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. It promotes a secular state and equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion or belief.