The Government would reportedly be pleased to see a parliamentary inquiry into the law banning assisted dying in England and Wales, it has been reported. The Telegraph reports that the Government has no intention of instigating its own inquiry into assisted dying, but also quotes a senior source at the Ministry of Justice as saying words to the effect that Ministers would ‘be pleased to see either the Health select committee or Justice select committee gather evidence on the issue’.
The news follows shortly after a group of 56 MPs and peers wrote to the Justice Secretary, Robert Buckland MP, and the Chairs of the Health, Justice, and Human Rights select committee, about assisted dying. The letters were co-organised by Humanists UK and My Death, My Decision, and was backed by Humanists UK’s patron Dr Henry Marsh, who has advanced cancer. They urged one of them to launch an inquiry into assisted dying. If the Government was not minded to launch its own inquiry, Mr Buckland was asked to instead call upon a select committee to do so. This is similar to what has now been reported.
Last week a new Bill to legalise assisted dying for adults of sound mind who have six or fewer months left to live secured seventh place in the House of Lords Private Members’ Bill ballot. The Bill is likely to be debated in the coming year. It will be the first time parliamentarians have debated legislation on assisted dying in over half a decade.
Responding to the reports, Humanists UK’s Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson said:
‘More than 15 years have now passed since parliamentarians scrutinised the evidence on assisted dying in any detail – and the facts have materially changed. For example, assisted dying is now legal in Canada, Italy, Spain, Germany, Austria, New Zealand, and parts of the United States and Australia, all since our politicians last considered changing the law. This demonstrates that compassionate assisted dying laws can be achieved alongside robust safeguards.
‘We are disappointed that the Government believes it does not have a role to play in neutrally assembling the evidence to inform debate. But we welcome the reported positive shift in tone towards the possibility of a parliamentary inquiry. We will continue to work towards securing this all-important inquiry and making sure parliamentarians are equipped to give this topic the high-quality debate it deserves.’
For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 020 7324 3072 or 07534 248 596.
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