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Health Secretary confirms travel abroad for assisted dying allowed during lockdown

Photo credit: Policy Exchange, source: Flickr (Creative Commons 2.0 license)

Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock has said that people travelling to Switzerland for an assisted death will not be breaking coronavirus travel restrictions, and also said ‘we should make sure that this conversation and discussion happens’ with regard to assisted dying in England and Wales.

Responding to an urgent question from Andrew Mitchell MP, he also added that the Government is unaware of the number of people who currently travel for an assisted death, but would ‘consider collecting data on assisted dying if it felt that would improve and contribute to a sensitive debate in Parliament on this subject’.

Several members of the All-Party Parliamentary Humanist Group (APPHG) contributed to this debate, adding pressure for the Government to hold an inquiry, including Rachel Hopkins MP, who highlighted that in a recent survey of medical opinion a majority of doctors supported assisted dying for the incurably suffering; APPHG Chair Crispin Blunt MP; and APPHG members Karin Smyth MP, Andy Slaughter MP, and Andy Slaughter MP.

Humanists UK’s Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson said:

‘Choosing to travel abroad for an assisted death is already a decision fraught with emotional and financial cost. We are pleased that the Government has recognised that those placed in this unenviable position should not face the additional barriers of breaking lockdown restrictions.

‘That notwithstanding, it has now been more than a half decade since Parliament considered legislation on assisted dying, and 15 years since it scrutinised the evidence in any detail. In this time, new evidence has emerged from progressive countries showing assisted dying can be achieved in a safe and compassionate manner, the number of Brits travelling to Switzerland has increased six-fold to more than one person per week, and medical opinion has dramatically shifted in support of changing the law. Given the sensitivity of this topic, the Government should assemble the latest evidence on assisted dying, and we hope it will press ahead with launching an inquiry or call upon Parliament to instigate one.’

Notes:

For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK’s Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson at press@humanists.uk or phone 020 7324 3072 or 07534 248 596.

Read more about our work on assisted dying.

Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by over 85,000 members and supporters, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. We provide ceremonies, pastoral care, education, and support services benefitting over a million people every year and our campaigns advance humanist thinking on ethical issues, human rights, and equal treatment for all.

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