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Henry Marsh announces advanced cancer, joins 56 MPs and peers in calling for assisted dying inquiry

Do you agree with Henry and the 56 MPs and peers? Then please write to your MP today to ask them to support an inquiry into assisted dying.

Acclaimed neurosurgeon and bestselling author Dr Henry Marsh has revealed he may well have only a short time left to live, after being diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer. Prompted by his diagnosis, he has now called upon parliamentarians to conduct an urgent review of the UK’s assisted dying laws.

His call has been supported by over fifty MPs and peers who have signed a joint letter calling upon the Justice Secretary and various parliamentary committee chairs to launch an inquiry into assisted dying for the terminally ill and the incurably suffering. The letter was organised by Humanists UK and My Death, My Decision.

The MPs and peers come from the Conservatives, Labour, Liberal Democrats, SNP, Green Party, and the Crossbenchers, and include some who had previously voted against changing the law. In the letter, explain that the UK’s laws on assisted dying have now fallen behind the rest of the world, and that new evidence necessitates a fresh review of the law.

The letter notes that ‘successive countries, including Canada, Germany, Italy, New Zealand, and parts of the United States and Australia, have changed or are due to change their law since 2015. Moreover, several other nations, including Ireland, are actively considering similar proposals, reflecting that such changes can be achieved in a safe and compassionate way.’

It also says that ‘there has been a significant shift in professional medical opinion and within the disability community. As of this year, in one of the largest surveys of medical opinion ever, the British Medical Association reported that half of doctors personally support legal assisted dying, with just 39% opposed, and if the law is to change, a majority favour changing it for both the terminally ill and incurably suffering. Further, Parkinson’s UK, the Multiple Sclerosis Society, and the Motor Neurone Disease Association have adopted neutral stances on this important issue.’

According to the latest polls, up to 88% of the public favour changing the law on assisted dying for those who are terminally ill and incurably suffering.

Speaking about his diagnosis, Henry Marsh said: 

‘Having spent a lifetime operating on people with cancer, the prospect of dying slowly from it myself fills me with dread. Despite the best efforts of palliative medicine, I know that dying from cancer can still be a very horrible business – for both patient and family, despite what the opponents of assisted dying claim.

‘I fiercely believe that if people in my situation knew they had the ability to choose how, when, and where they would die, it would greatly reduce their suffering. Knowing that I had this choice, if life became unbearable, would certainly give me much greater confidence now in facing whatever the future might hold for me. But as the law stands, I am not allowed this comfort, and the law insists instead that I must suffer. Many politicians have shown a striking lack of compassion by ducking this issue for too long, and are inadvertently guilty of great cruelty. Irrespective of your view on assisted dying, I would hope everyone could agree that our laws should be based on evidence and informed decisions, not alarmist, unfounded opposition that flies in the face of all the evidence from countries where assisted dying has been legalised. It’s time for all MPs to start taking this issue seriously and I urgently call upon them to undertake an inquiry into the law.’

Speaking both about Henry Marsh’s diagnosis and the joint parliamentary letter, Humanists UK’s Chief Executive Andrew Copson said: 

‘I am deeply sorry to hear about Henry’s diagnosis. Henry has been a loyal friend and advocate for Humanists UK and we will continue to do everything we can to support him, including in his brave work on assisted dying.

‘The ability to choose how, where, and when we die is a fundamental freedom, which cuts across party political and ideological lines. In coming together to demand an inquiry, Henry and the lawmakers who have signed this letter have put the voices of the terminally ill and incurably suffering at the centre of the debate. We urge the Justice Secretary not to shy away from the difficult questions posed by assisted dying, and to launch an inquiry or call on Parliament to do so, to ensure these voices are given the fair hearing they deserve.’

Speaking about the joint parliamentary letter he helped to organise, Crispin Blunt MP, Co-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Humanist Group said: 

‘MPs owe their constituents a duty of compassion not to let the suffering of those who are terminally ill or incurably suffering go unnoticed. In the years since Parliament last scrutinised the law underpinning our ban on assisted dying, 250 million people worldwide have gained the option of a dignified death, new evidence has emerged demonstrating that respect for autonomy can be balanced alongside robust safeguards, and professional opinion has dramatically shifted towards a change in the law.’

‘I urge the Justice Secretary to initiate an inquiry or call on Parliament to do so.’

Notes:

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

Henry Marsh

Henry Marsh, 71, has been diagnosed with prostate cancer and an advanced PSA score typically associated with stage 3 and 4 cancer. The typical mortality rate for those in this situation is between one and five years.

Joint parliamentary letter

Read the joint parliamentary letter, organised by Humanists UK and My Death, My Decision.

The letter has been signed by 56 MPs and peers, including the two co-chairs of the All Party-Parliamentary Humanist Group Crispin Blunt MP and Baroness Bakewell, as well as Aaron Bell MP, Lord Haworth, Lord Aberdare, Lord Dubs, Lord Turnbull, Andy Slaughter MP, Baroness Mallalieu, Baroness Taylor, Lord Young of Norwood Green, Beth Winter MP, Caroline Lucas MP, Christine Jardine MP, Chris Law MP, Clive Betts MP, Clive Lewis MP, Lord Soley, Lord Low of Dalston, Lord Lipsey, Lord Stevenson of Coddenham, Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe, Duncan Baker MP, Baroness Murphy, Lord Judd, George Howarth MP, Huw Merriman MP, Baroness Whitaker, Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb, Baroness Tonge, Lord Purvis of Tweed, Lord Maxton, the Earl of Sandwich, the Duke of Somerset, Lord Barker of Dorking, Kevin Hollinrake MP, Baroness Burt, Margaret Hodge MP, Lord Rees, Viscount Ridley, Lord Desai, Lord Dobbs, Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle, Lord Dholakia, the Earl of Clancarty, Lord Warner, Rachel Hopkins MP, Baroness Lister, Baroness Brinton, Baroness Greengross, Baroness Hamwee, Steve McCabe MP, Lord Elder, Tommy Sheppard MP, Tracey Crouch MP, and Lord Davies of Stamford.

Wider developments

Helping someone to end their life is a criminal offence under the Suicide Act 1961, and anyone found guilty can face up to 14 years’ imprisonment.

The UK Parliament last voted on assisted dying in 2015, rejecting by 330 against to 118 a private members’ bill to legalise assisted dying for those who are terminally ill and likely to die within six months.

Last year, the Court of Appeal refused Paul Lamb permission to judicially review the law on assisted dying. In its judgement the court ruled that assisted dying had now become a matter preeminently for Parliament and not the courts.

Read more about Humanists UK’s campaign for legal assisted dying.

Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by 100,000 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.

Spanish Parliament passes assisted dying bill

Spanish lawmakers have voted by 202 to 141 in favour of assisted dying for people with incurable illnesses, becoming the fifth country to legalise assisted dying since 2016. Humanists UK has celebrated the move by the predominantly Catholic country as a decisive step forward in the global campaign for assisted dying, which will add renewed pressure on the UK to follow suit.

The legislation means that doctors will soon be able to assist or directly enable adults ‘intolerably suffering’ from a ‘serious or incurable condition’ or a ‘chronic and incapacitating’ illness to end their lives, provided the assistance is freely and unequivocally asked for.

Under Spain’s previous law, helping someone to end their life carried a jail term of up to 10 years. 84% of Spaniards support legal assisted dying and at least two Spaniards per year travel to Switzerland for an assisted death.

Polling indicates that public support in the UK is even higher, with one recent survey finding 88% of the public favour changing the law along the lines of Spain’s legislation. The number Brits travelling to Switzerland is also dramatically higher with at least one Brit ending their life in Switzerland every week.

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

‘This is a decisive step forward in the campaign for legal assisted dying, as it proves that respect for personal autonomy cuts across both political and religious grounds. It is also significant for adding weight to the growing international consensus that assisted dying should not depend upon a specific life prognosis, but rather an individual’s quality of life.’

‘By failing to confront the evidence on assisted dying, let alone consider legislation to help those who are terminally ill or incurably suffering, our lawmakers have shown a striking lack of compassion. More than one Brit per week now faces the unimaginable horror of having to choose between breaking the law and dying abroad, or suffering from a death devoid of dignity. In a fair, rational, and compassionate society like ours there must be a better alternative. As the UK increasingly looks set to lag behind the rest of the world on this issue, we urge our politicians to pay close attention to the example set by Spain and remedy their inaction by immediately holding an inquiry into the law.’

Notes:

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

Assisted dying is now permitted for terminally ill and incurably suffering people in Austria, Canada, Belgium, Italy, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and Switzerland, with a similar Bill also currently going through the Dáil in the Republic of Ireland. It is also permitted specifically for terminally ill people in Colombia, ten US jurisdictions, and the Australian state of Victoria, and will soon become legal in Western Australia and New Zealand.

Wider developments

Parliament last voted on assisted dying in 2015, rejecting by 330 to 118 a private member’s bill which would have legalised assistance for those with six or fewer months left to live.

Last year, the British Medical Association (BMA) announced the outcome of its members’ survey on assisted dying. The BMA heard from almost 29,000 doctors and medical students and found that 50% personally believe that doctors should be able to prescribe life-ending drugs for patients to take themselves, with just 39% opposed to it. Asked who should be eligible for an assisted death if the law were changed, 59% felt that patients with physical conditions causing intolerable suffering which cannot be relieved should be; whereas only 24% thought patients suffering from a condition likely to cause death in six months or less should be the only people eligible.

According to the UK Assisted Dying Coalition, of which Humanists UK is a founding member, more than one person a week now travels from the UK to Switzerland for an assisted death.

A 2019 poll from NatCen found that 88% of people in the UK favour assisted dying for those who are incurably suffering, in at least some circumstances.

Read more about our Humanists UK’s campaign for assisted dying. 

Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by 100,000 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.

Jersey moves ahead with citizens’ jury to assess evidence on assisted dying

More than 4,500 residents have been invited to take part in Jersey’s citizens’ jury on assisted dying, as part of the island’s initiative to investigate the merits of a change in the law. Channel Islands Humanists has welcomed the announcement as a positive step forward towards a change in the law.

The jury, announced last year but delayed due to Covid-19, will comprise of 18-24 randomly selected members of the public, drawn from the 4,500 to be representative of the public at large. It will be tasked with reviewing in detail the evidence on assisted dying, and submitting a final recommendation to Jersey’s Assembly for debate. In a recent survey commissioned by End of Life Choices Jersey, Humanists UK’s partner in the Assisted Dying Coalition, up to 86% of islanders said they supported assisted dying for those facing incurable suffering, in at least some circumstances.

Channel Islands Humanists Chair Dave Crocker commented:

‘In a period when Covid-19 would have made it easy to allow initiatives such as this to fall by the wayside, Jersey’s Government should be congratulated for its commitment to citizenship engagement. Support for the legalisation of assisted dying has now reached a record high with nearly nine in ten people favouring a change in the law for both the terminally ill and incurably suffering, and a majority of medics favour reform too.

‘For too long, the law has been allowed to remain out of kilter with the public’s sentiment on assisted dying, and we hope this jury will set an example for lawmakers elsewhere in the UK and crown dependencies, encouraging them to now also engage with the evidence.’

Notes:

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

Read Jersey’s Government press release

Read more about our campaign for assisted dying.

Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by 100,000 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.

Austria’s top court decriminalises assisted dying

Helping ‘seriously ill’ people to end their lives will no longer be a criminal offence in Austria, following a judgment from the country’s top court. Humanists UK, which campaigns for legal assisted dying across the UK, has welcomed the move as a victory for reason, compassion, and empathy.

News of the decision comes just weeks after it was announced that humanist Paul Lamb has been refused permission to judicially review the UK’s laws on assisted dying – in a judgment that is thought to end the prospect of any further legal cases for the foreseeable future.

Assisted dying is now permitted for terminally ill and incurably suffering people in Canada, Belgium, Italy, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and Switzerland, with a similar Bill also currently going through the Dáil in the Republic of Ireland. It is also permitted specifically for terminally ill people in Colombia, ten US jurisdictions, and the Australian state of Victoria, and will soon become legal in Western Australia and New Zealand.

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

‘We are delighted Austria has chosen to follow in the footsteps of its progressive neighbours and allow those who are incurably suffering the option of a dignified death. It cannot be right that those facing constant and unbearable suffering should be forced to continue living in a state of pain, when they have freely reached a decision to end their own life.

‘With more countries changing their laws on assisted dying, this judgment is a powerful reminder of the growing consensus favouring legal, safe, and compassionate assisted dying for both the terminally ill and incurably suffering worldwide. And it has firmly put the spotlight back on our lawmakers’ inaction.

‘At least one Brit per week now travels to Switzerland to end their life. But changing the law is overwhelmingly backed by the public, and in a recent survey half of doctors said they personally favoured legal assisted dying. The time has therefore come for the UK to stop turning a blind eye to the striking injustice our our laws. We urge the Government to clear the way for a more compassionate law by launching an inquiry into the matter.’

The landmark ruling relates to a complaint from a series of individuals, including two terminally ill people and a 56 year-old man suffering from multiple sclerosis, that the country’s blanket ban on assisted dying violated their human rights.

Under Austria’s criminal law anyone who helped someone end their life could have faced up to five years imprisonment. But on Friday, Austria’s constitutional court backed claims that the existing law was unconstitutional and decided that a blanket ban on helping others ‘violates the rights to self-determination, because this fact forbids any kind of assistance under any circumstances’. However, emphasising that the right is only protected if ‘made freely and without any influence’, the Court called upon Austria’s Parliament to ‘take measures to prevent abuse’

Notes:

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

Read the Austrian constitutional court’s press release on its assisted dying judgment.

Wider developments

Parliament last voted on assisted dying in 2015, rejecting by 330 to 118 a private member’s bill which would not have assisted Paul, but which would have legalised assistance for those with six or fewer months left to live.

Earlier this month, the British Medical Association (BMA) announced the outcome of its members’ survey on assisted dying. The BMA heard from almost 29,000 doctors and medical students and found that 50% personally believe that doctors should be able to prescribe life-ending drugs for patients to take themselves, with just 39% opposed to it. Asked who should be eligible for an assisted death if the law were changed, 59% felt that patients with physical conditions causing intolerable suffering which cannot be relieved should be; whereas only 24% thought patients suffering from a condition likely to cause death in six months or less should be the only people eligible.

According to the UK Assisted Dying Coalition, of which Humanists UK is a founding member, more than one person a week now travels from the UK to Switzerland for an assisted death.

A 2019 poll from NatCen found that 88% of people in the UK favour assisted dying for those who are incurably suffering, in at least some circumstances.

Read more about Humanists UK’s campaign for assisted dying.

Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by 100,000 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.

Paul Lamb’s assisted dying case refused permission by Court of Appeal

The Court of Appeal has refused permission for humanist Paul Lamb to judicially review the law on assisted dying, in a move expected to end the prospect of further cases for the foreseeable future. Paul was being supported by Humanists UK. Rebuffed by the courts, he is now taking his campaign to Secretary of State for Justice Robert Buckland and calling for an inquiry into assisted dying.

Paul, 65, a former builder from Leeds, is paralysed from the neck down following a car accident in 1990. He lives in constant pain and is dependent upon around the clock care for almost every aspect of his life. He is campaigning to change the law on assisted dying for those who are either incurably suffering or terminally ill, and wants the right-to-die when his pain ever becomes too much to bear.

Lawyers acting for Paul had appealed against a decision from the High Court in December 2019, when his case was denied permission to proceed, but they have been unsuccessful. They had argued that the current law – which prohibits helping anyone to die under threat of up to fourteen years’ imprisonment – violates Paul’s human rights by discriminating against him, and was therefore incompatible with the Human Rights Act 1998.

However, the Court of Appeal refused to permit Paul permission to bring his full case and instead ruled that assisted dying should be resolved by Parliament and not the courts. This seems to end the prospect of further legal challenges against the law banning assisted dying for the foreseeable future.

The rejection of this case comes amid growing support for legal assisted dying, as last month– in one of the largest surveys of medical opinion ever – the British Medical Association reported that half of doctors personally support assisted dying, with just 39% opposed, and that if the law were to change, a majority favoured changing it to help those in Paul’s situation.

Lord Justice Nick Phillips said that previous legal cases had ‘recognised that the interference with human rights brought about by sections 2 and 2A of the Suicide Act 1961 can be justified by reference to weighty countervailing factors, including the protection of the vulnerable. It has also been recognised that the balancing exercise in this difficult area is pre-eminently a matter for Parliament, not the courts’.

Paul Lamb has now written to the Secretary of State urging him to take notice of the Court’s decision and calling for him to issue an inquiry into assisted dying, which could pave the way for future legislation.

Without a change in the law, Paul will now only be able to end his life by illegally travelling to Switzerland, or by lawfully choosing to starve himself to death.

Commenting on the judgment, Paul Lamb said:

‘I am devastated by this decision, and the powerless position it has left me in. Without the option of a dignified death, I now have no choice if my pain ever becomes unbearable, other than the horrifying prospect I was most afraid of from the start – slowly starving myself to death. I cannot understand, in a civilised society like ours, why I should be forced to suffer when millions of people around the world already have the choice I asked for.

‘Throughout my case, all I have been told is how sympathetic others are to my situation. But I have never wanted anyone to pity me. All I have ever wanted is for my choice to be respected and given equal validity under the law, like everyone else’s. Instead this decision, if it is the final word on the matter, condemns me to a life of constant pain, and removes the small part of my life that I could still have some say over – how I want to die.

‘I may have lost this case, but I’m going to continue fighting to change this law’.

Humanists UK’s Chief Executive Andrew Copson said: 

‘It’s now been half a decade since our highest judges asked Parliament to reconsider the law on assisted dying. Since then, the number of Britons travelling to Switzerland has doubled, half of doctors have come to personally support a change in the law with only a minority opposed, and progressive countries have demonstrated that choice and control can be balanced alongside robust safeguards.

We are disappointed that the courts have yet again failed to challenge one of the most unethical laws in our country. However, once again the message of this judgment is clear: Parliament cannot ignore its responsibility to examine this law any longer. It is time for MPs to confront the compelling evidence favouring assisted dying, and for the Government to help by issuing a long-overdue inquiry.

Whilst this judgment may have brought an end to Paul’s case it hasn’t ended the fight for a legal, safe, and compassionate law on assisted dying. Adults of sound mind who are either incurably suffering or terminally ill deserve the right to choose how, where, and when they die – and we will continue to champion their rights and Paul’s voice.’

NOTES:

For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK Assisted Dying Campaigner Keiron McCabe at keiron@humanism.org.uk or phone 07972204007. Due to his worsening condition Paul is unavailable for interviews or further comment.

Details on the legal case

Paul Lamb was represented by Rosa Curling of Leigh Day, Philip Havers QC of 1 Crown Office, Adam Sandell of Matrix Chambers, and Eesvan Krishnan of Blackstone Chambers.

The case was between Paul Lamb and the Secretary of State for Justice. In July 2019, an application to judicially review sections 2(1) and 2(2A) of the Suicide Act 1961 was submitted. The Court was invited to grant a declaration of incompatibility under the Human Rights Act 1998, on the grounds that the Suicide Act was incompatible with Paul Lamb’s rights under Article 14 (prohibition on discrimination) and Article 8 (right to privacy) of the European Convention on Human Rights. On 19 December, the High Court decided that Paul Lamb’s case was ‘unarguable’ and denied him permission to proceed to a full hearing. Lord Justice Dingemans and Mrs Justice Elisabeth Laing said that the rulings from previous case law held that assisted dying is a matter for Parliament and not the courts. A final appeal was then lodged to the Court of Appeal, and rejected by Lord Justice Phillips on 13 May on similar grounds.

Shortly following the outcome of his case Paul was hospitalised and deemed unresponsive to treatment. As a result, announcing the outcome of his case has been delayed on the request of his carers and medical staff. He has now sufficiently recovered for an announcement to be made.

This case had been a fresh legal bid following an earlier legal case from Paul. In 2014, alongside the widow of Tony Nicklinson, Paul previously challenged the law on assisted dying before the UK Supreme Court. In a narrow split decision the Court decided not to declare the Suicide Act incompatible with Paul’s human rights, and instead instructed Parliament to examine the law, warning that it may declare the law invalid at a later point if Parliament failed to do so. Paul subsequently challenged the UK’s ban before the European Court of Human Rights in 2015, but it ruled that the issue was within the UK’s margin of appreciation.

Wider developments

Parliament last voted on assisted dying in 2015, rejecting by 330 against to 118 a private member’s bill which would not have assisted Paul, but which would have legalised assistance for those with six or fewer months left to live.

Last month, the British Medical Association (BMA) announced the outcome of its members’ survey on assisted dying. The BMA heard from almost 29,000 doctors and medical students and found that 50% personally believe that doctors should be able to prescribe life-ending drugs for patients to take themselves, with just 39% opposed to it. Asked who should be eligible for an assisted death if the law were changed, 59% felt that patients with physical conditions causing intolerable suffering which cannot be relieved should be; whereas only 24% thought patients suffering from a condition likely to cause death in six months or less should be the only people eligible.

According to the UK Assisted Dying Coalition, of which Humanists UK is a founding member, more than one person a week now travels from the UK to Switzerland for an assisted death.

A 2019 poll from NatCen has found that 88% of people in England and Wales favour assisted dying for those who are incurably suffering, in at least some circumstances.

Assisted dying is now permitted for the terminally ill and incurably suffering in Switzerland, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, and Canada; it is also legal for terminally ill people in Colombia, ten US jurisdictions, and the Australian states of Victoria and Western Australia.

Recently, New Zealand voted in a national referendum on whether assisted dying should become legal, and Ireland’s Oireachtas (Parliament) voted to move forward on proposals to legalise assisted dying for the terminally ill and incurably suffering.

Read Paul Lamb’s letter to the Secretary of State for Justice: https://humanism.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/Paul-Lamb-Letter-to-Justice-Secretary-1.pdf 

Read more about Paul Lamb: 

https://humanism.org.uk/about/our-people/patrons/paul-lamb/

Read more about Humanists UK’s campaign for assisted dying reform: 

https://humanism.org.uk/campaigns/public-ethical-issues/assisted-dying/

Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by over 100,000 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 benefiting over a million people every year and our campaigns advance humanist thinking on ethical issues, human rights, and equal treatment for all.

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 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.

New Zealand votes to legalise assisted dying in binding referendum

Preliminary results from New Zealand’s referendum on assisted dying show a clear majority have supported the right to die. Humanists UK has congratulated campaigners in New Zealand for the decisive victory, and have called on UK politicians to take note of the result and bring about similar legislative change here.

According to initial results 65.2% of New Zealand voters backed proposals which will now allow doctors to help adults who are terminally ill to end their life, provided they are of sound mind and have a settled and uncoerced wish.

Ahead of the results, opinion polling had indicated that between 60-70% of the public agreed assisted dying should be legal. The fact that the final result was in line with this underscores the accuracy of public opinion polls on assisted dying. Polling suggests that popular support in the UK is higher still, with one recently finding 88% of the public favouring a change in the law for the terminally ill and incurably suffering.

The final, official results of New Zealand’s referendum will be released on 6 November and a change in the law is expected to come into effect a year after that date.

Humanists UK Chief Executive Andrew Copson commented: 

‘This is a hugely significant moment in the campaign for assisted dying, as the result of this referendum in New Zealand shows a clear, popular demand for a change in the law in a country with values very similar to our own. Further, although critics have often alleged that support for a change in the law falls away when people learn more about it, the results from New Zealand clearly show this isn’t the case.

‘Opinion polling has consistently shown that assisted dying for both the terminally ill and incurably suffering is even more popular in the UK than it is in New Zealand. Few issues have a stronger popular mandate. It is now time for MPs to recognise the strength of public support by taking action to change the law. An important place to start would be by reviewing the evidence on assisted dying and we urge MPs to follow in New Zealand’s footsteps by launching a parliamentary inquiry.’

Notes:

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

More about New Zealand’s referendum

A nationwide binding referendum on whether to enact the End of Life Choice Act 2019 was held in New Zealand on 17 October. The referendum followed after a parliamentary inquiry reviewed the evidence on assisted dying and New Zealand’s Parliament subsequently voted 60-59 in favour of the Act subject to a referendum.

Voters were asked whether they supported the proposed law or not and preliminary results show a majority of 65.2% to 33.8% of voters supported it. 

Under the proposed law doctors will be able to assist someone with six or fewer months left to live to end their life, if they are 18 years old, a citizen/resident of New Zealand, experiencing unbearable suffering that cannot be eased and an ongoing decline in physical capability, and provided they are able to make an informed decision.

The option of an assisted death would be subject to safeguards including a requirement for any request to be made in writing, a requirement for an independent doctor to verify an individual’s eligibility (as well as a psychiatrist specialist confirming their capacity if there were any doubts), and an oversight body review to ensure the law was complied with.

The official results will be released on 6 November and if more than 50% vote yes in the referendum the End of Life Choice Act will come into force 12 months after this date.

Wider developments

The UK Parliament last voted on assisted dying in 2015, rejecting by 330 against to 118 a private members’ bill to legalise assisted dying for those who are terminally ill and likely to die within six months.

Last month, in one of the largest surveys of medical opinion ever, half of doctors said they personally supported changing the law on assisted dying. In the British Medical Association members’ survey on assisted dying, 59% of doctors also felt that, if the law is to change, then patients with physical conditions causing intolerable suffering which cannot be relieved should be able to access assisted dying; whereas only 24% thought that only patients suffering from a condition likely to cause death in six months or less should be eligible.

Recently, the families and living claimants of most of the previous assisted dying cases came together for the first time, to urge the UK Secretary of State for Justice to instigate a review into assisted dying or call on the UK Parliament to conduct one, similar to the process which began New Zealand’s path to legislative reform.

Assisted dying is now permitted for terminally ill and incurably suffering people in Canada, Belgium, Italy, Germany, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands. It is also permitted specifically for terminally ill people in Colombia, ten US jurisdictions, and the Australian state of Victoria, and will soon become legal in Western Australia. Following these results, it is also expected to become legal in New Zealand. An assisted dying bill for the terminally ill and incurably suffering is also currently going through the Dáil in the Republic of Ireland.

Read more about nearly 90% of the public supporting assisted dying.

Read more about our campaign to legalise 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.

Doctors vote to end assisted dying opposition in landmark BMA survey

The British Medical Association (BMA) looks like it must end its policy of opposing assisted dying, according to Humanists UK, after 50% of members said they support changing the law to allow terminally ill and incurably suffering adults the option of a legal assisted death. The results come in a landmark members’ survey, where just 39% took the opposite view. 40% said the BMA itself should actively support such a change in the law, with just 33% opposed, and 21% neutral – meaning a clear majority want the BMA to change its current policy of opposition. Humanists UK has strongly welcomed the findings as possibly one of the most significant steps towards a change in the law.

Since 2006 the BMA, which represents more than 150,000 doctors and 19,000 medical students, has opposed assisted dying. However, in one of the UK’s largest surveys of medical opinion ever carried out on assisted dying, doctors have strongly indicated they want change. The survey also found that more than 10,000 doctors would be willing to actively participate if the law was changed. The BMA is now expected to review its stance on assisted dying at its next policy-making meeting in June 2021. In Humanists UK’s view, it seems that the policy of opposition must now end.

The momentous results come amid growing support for assisted dying internationally, as yesterday Ireland’s Parliament voted to move forward on proposals to legalise assisted dying, and a national referendum on assisted dying is scheduled in New Zealand later this month.

Humanists UK’s Chief Executive Andrew Copson said: 

‘We are delighted by the outcome of this survey, as it marks a potential turning point in the fight for terminally ill and incurably suffering people’s right to a legal, safe, and compassionate assisted death. Following this survey, the emphatic view of doctors to respect their patients’ rights to choose how, where, and when they want to die can no longer be in any doubt.

‘The option of an assisted death is now available for more than 150 million people around the world. Public opinion has reached a record high of nearly 90% supporting a change in the law, and the number of people forced to travel to Switzerland has increased by six-fold in the last two decades. We urge the BMA to take notice of the clear signal its members have sent today by casting the most votes in support of legal assisted dying, by dropping its hostile stance which no longer reflects the views of its members, representatives, or society at large.’

Notes:

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

More about the BMA’s consultation

The BMA is a trade union representing and negotiating on behalf of 160,000 doctors in the UK. In 2019, at the BMA’s main policymaking meeting members voted for a motion to survey members on whether the association should adopt a neutral position on assisted dying.

The BMA’s consultation ran between 6-27 February and was organised by the independent organisation Kantar. 28,986 members of the BMA took part in the consultation (20% of all members invited to participate).

Members were asked whether they believe the BMA should actively support, actively oppose, or neither actively support nor actively oppose (i.e. take a neutral stance on) a change in the law to permit doctors to prescribe drugs for eligible patients to self-administer to end their own life. ‘Four in ten (40%) surveyed members expressed the view that the British Medical Association (BMA) should actively support attempts to change the law, one in three (33%) favoured opposition, and one in five (21%) felt the BMA should adopt a neutral position, neither actively supporting nor actively opposing attempts to change the law to permit doctors to prescribe life-ending drugs.’ This means a majority opted for an end to the current policy of opposition, and a move to at least neutrality, on a position that would match the law in Switzerland. Further, ‘Half (50%) of surveyed members personally believed that there should be a change in the law to permit doctors to prescribe life-ending drugs. Four in ten (39%) were opposed, with a further one in ten (11%) undecided.’

In terms of allowing doctors to administer the drugs, ‘Four in ten (40%) surveyed members expressed the view that the BMA should actively oppose attempts to change the law to permit doctors to administer life-ending drugs. Three in ten (30%) favoured support, and 23% felt the BMA should adopt a neutral stance of neither actively supporting nor actively opposing attempts to change the law.’ This again represents a majority opting for an end to the current policy of opposition, and a move to at least neutrality.

Read the BMA’s full results.

More about assisted dying

Under section 2(1) and 2(2A) of the 1961 Suicide Act, it is unlawful in England and Wales to encourage or assist someone to end their life. Anyone found guilty of an act ‘capable of encouraging or assisting the suicide or attempted suicide of another’ can face up to 14 years’ imprisonment.

Assisted dying is now permitted for terminally ill and incurably suffering people in Canada, Belgium, Italy, Germany, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands. It is also permitted specifically for terminally ill people in Colombia, ten US jurisdictions, and the Australian state of Victoria and will soon become legal in Western Australia.

Read more about our campaign for legal assisted dying.

Read more about how nearly 90% of the public support support assisted dying reform.

Read more about research which found that more than one British citizen a week now ends their life in Switzerland.

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.

Royal College of GPs threatened with legal action over hostile assisted dying stance

Two GPs have threatened the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) with legal action after it decided earlier this year to remain opposed to assisted dying, despite a majority of GPs in a prior consultation wanting it to move to be neutral or supportive. Humanists UK, which campaigns to legalise assisted dying for both the terminally ill and incurably suffering, has welcomed the announcement.

In February, the RCGP announced that it would retain its longstanding opposition to assisted dying, after a plurality of its members voted to maintain their hostile stance. At the time, Humanists UK raised concerns about the fairness of the RCGP’s decision, as a majority of GPs voted for the RCGP to adopt either a neutral or supportive stance.

In a letter to the RCGP’s Board of Trustees, two distinguished medics, Professor Aneez Esmail and Sir Sam Everington, have now set out similar concerns and warned that the RCGP may have acted unlawfully. In their statement, which has been supported by the Good Law Project and Dignity in Dying, they cite concerns about the transparency of the RCGP’s decision-making and have asked for the minutes explaining the RCGP’s decision to be released.

The news was released alongside a new survey of 1,000 GPs, carried out by medeConnect, that found that just 35% now support the RCGP’s stance. The  British Medical Association is expected to publish the results of a similar membership survey next year.

Responding to the news, Humanist UK’s Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson said: 

‘By choosing to remain opposed to assisted dying, despite the clear preference of GPs to adopt a neutral or supportive stance, the RCGP raised real concerns about the integrity of its decision making process. We therefore welcome this move to challenge that decision.

‘This polling in support of assisted dying reflects a wider trend across our country, as nearly 90% of British adults now support legal, safe, and compassionate assisted dying for the terminally ill and incurably suffering. Given the significant shift in both public and medical opinion, a review into existing law banning assisted dying is now long-overdue’.

Notes:

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

Read more about the case: https://www.bindmans.com/news/two-gps-raise-legal-concerns-with-royal-college-of-gps-regarding-opposition-to-assisted-dying

Read our previous news item announcing the RCGP consultation and BMA consultation.

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.

Past right-to-die legal claimants and their families join forces to call for assisted dying inquiry

Tony and Jane Nicklinson. Photo courtesy of Jane Nicklinson.

The families and living claimants of most of the previous assisted dying legal cases have come together for the first time, to urge the UK Secretary of State for Justice to instigate a review into assisted dying or call on the UK Parliament to conduct one, in an open letter published today.

The letter, which includes signatories from Debbie Purdy’s widower Omar Puente, Tony Nicklinson’s wife Jane Nicklinson, the mother of Omid T, and latest assisted dying claimant Phil Newby, highlights that the evidence in favour of assisted dying has significantly changed since Parliament last debated legal reform, and that public opinion has dramatically shifted in support of a new law.

The letter was organised by Humanists UK, which campaigns to legalise assisted dying for both the terminally ill and incurably suffering, and appears in The Guardian today, following the eighth anniversary of humanist and right-to-die campaigner Tony Nicklinson’s death. After his death Tony’s case was taken over by his widow Jane and by fellow campaigner Paul Lamb, and went to the Supreme Court.

Sign our petition to the Justice Secretary calling for a public inquiry

The letter is below, as published in The Guardian:

We represent the families and living claimants of most of the previous assisted dying legal cases. We have come together, for the first time, because we now believe there is an overwhelming case to set up an inquiry into the law.

It has now been half a decade since Parliament last examined legislation to legalise assisted dying, and fifteen years since it formally scrutinised the evidence. In that time, the number of Britons travelling to Switzerland had rocketed sixfold; successive countries, including Canada, Germany, Italy, and parts of the United States and Australia have legalised assisted dying, demonstrating that such changes can be achieved in a safe and compassionate way; public opinion has dramatically risen to nearly 90% supporting a change in the law for the terminally ill and incurably suffering; and there has been a significant shift in medical opinion and from within the disability community.

Following our unsuccessful legal cases, it is now obvious that parliamentarians alone have a responsibility to look at this matter again. They must not allow our cases to become the final word on the matter, or else countless others will experience the indignity, suffering, and agony that we can attest that this law creates.

The evidence on assisted dying has simply changed, and Parliament cannot afford to turn a blind eye any longer.

Humanist UK’s Chief Executive Andrew Copson said:

‘The signatories to this letter are uniting to call for a review into one of the most morally unjust laws in our country. For too long some politicians’ aversion to talking about the merits of a dignified death have forced people to suffer in silence. But now, after more than fifteen years since the last serious parliamentary scrutiny, and an overwhelming change in evidence in the interim, it is time for the voices of those facing a terminal illness or incurable suffering to be heard.

‘The case for an inquiry into assisted dying is underpinned by a simple but undeniable logic – when the facts change, so must our understanding. We welcome this initiative as a means of equipping Parliament with the information it needs to conduct an informed debate, and hope it will spur the Justice Secretary to launch an inquiry that is now long overdue.’

Notes:

For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK Assisted Dying Campaigner Keiron McCabe at keiron@humanists.uk or phone 020 7324 3001.

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.

Germany’s top court overturns ban on physician-assisted dying

Germany’s Constitutional Court has ruled that a law forbidding professional assistance to die is unconstitutional, in a move that is being seen as a major victory for assisted dying campaigners.

The decision, which centred on a controversial 2015 law – which legalised the right for individuals to purchase life-ending substances for ‘altruistic motives’ but forbade doctors or other professionals from prescribing substances for ‘enterprise purposes’ – found that to deny adults the right to professional assistance unlawfully denies them a ‘right to a self-determined death’.

The judgment has been hailed as a major victory for right-to-die campaigners for clarifying the law for those who are terminally ill, since the Court had already ruled in 2017 doctors could not always deny adults who were ‘seriously and incurably ill’ access to similar drugs.

Previously, the law had meant that any doctor who assisted a patient to end their life could face up to 5 years’ imprisonment, resulting in more than 120 people individually applying for life-ending substances to Germany’s Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices without any professional assistance between 2015 and 2019.

Humanists UK, which campaigns for assisted dying for people who are terminally ill and incurably suffering, has welcomed the decision. Humanists UK is supporting Paul Lamb in his bid to change the law on assisted dying in the UK.

It will now be up to Germany’s Government to propose legislation to bring the law in line with the Court’s ruling.

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

‘There is now an abundance of evidence demonstrating that a balance between respect for an individual’s autonomy and robust safeguards can be achieved under a sensible and transparent law on assisted dying. Yet, whilst more than 150 million people around the world now have the right to a peaceful and painless death, our own law continues to force those who are incurably suffering to die without dignity or compassion. There is a better way forward, and it is time for the UK to follow in the footsteps of our European neighbours.

‘Dying in a manner and at a time of your own choice is a fundamental human right, and we welcome the decision of Germany’s Court decision as yet another affirmation of this.’

Recent weeks have also seen governments in Spain and Portugal make decisive steps towards legal assisted dying.

Notes:

For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK Press Manager Casey-Ann Seaniger at casey@humanism.org.uk or phone 020 7324 3078 or 07393 344293.

Read more about Paul Lamb’s assisted dying legal case.

Read more about Humanists UK’s campaign for assisted dying reform.

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.

Medical voices and campaigners urge BMA members to support assisted dying

Around 30 doctors, philosophers, academics, and campaigners have written an open letter urging members of the British Medical Association (BMA) to support assisted dying in its survey which closes this week.

The joint letter, printed in The Guardian today, was organised by the UK Assisted Dying Coalition, of which Humanists UK is a founding member, and follows just days after the Royal College of GPs voted to maintain their opposition to assisted dying, despite a majority of GPs wanting to move to a neutral or supportive position.

Among those who have signed the letter are Professor A.C. Grayling, Professor John Harris, Dr Henry Marsh, Dr Wendy Savage, Melanie Reid MBE, Dr Michael Irwin, The Revd Dr Scott S McKenna, and Professor Raymond Tallis.

The full letter and signatories is below.

As medical practitioners increasingly recognise the importance of autonomy and include the public in the planning and delivery of healthcare, it has become vital to listen to and engage with our patients’ wishes. Yet, when it comes to assisted dying, we have become out of step.

In 2006, the British Medical Association (BMA) moved to oppose assisted dying. Even back then, polls indicated considerable public support for assisted dying, and people rarely travelled abroad to end their life.

But, in the years since, public support for a change in the law has risen to around 90%. Despite the best efforts of palliative care, at least one UK citizen a week is forced to leave their home and travel to Switzerland to have an assisted death – which at best, is a decision fraught with emotional and financial cost, and at worst involves someone ending their life before they would otherwise wish.

It is time for change. Over 150 million people worldwide have gained the option of a safeguarded assisted death, as more countries, including Canada, have changed their laws. If other countries can achieve this in a safe and legal manner, why can’t we?

The BMA’s survey on assisted dying closes this Thursday. We urge members to vote in support of reform.

Andrew Copson, Chief Executive, Humanists UK

Carrie Hynds, Chair, Assisted Dying Coalition

Trevor Moore, Chair, My Death, My Decision

Fraser Sutherland, Chief Executive, Humanist Society Scotland

Michael Tailbard, Deputy Coordinator, End of Life Choices Jersey

Peter Warren, Chair Executive, Friends at the End

Stacey Adam, Assisted Dying Campaigner

Dr Julian Baggini, Associate reader in philosophy, University of Kent

Professor Helen Beebee, Samuel Hall Professor of Philosophy, University of Manchester

Peter Cave, Lecturer in philosophy for the Open University and City University, London and chair of the Humanist Philosophers Group

Professor Matthew Clayton, Professor of Political Theory, University of Warwick

Professor John Dupré, Professor of Philosophy of Science and Director, University of Exeter

Dr Nicholas Everitt, Senior Research Fellow in Philosophy, University of East Anglia

Professor AC Grayling Master of New College of the Humanities, supernumerary fellow of St Anne’s College, Oxford, and co-editor of the Wiley Blackwell Handbook of Humanism

Professor John Harris, Professor Emeritus, University of Manchester, Visiting Professor in Bioethics, Department of Global Health and Social Medicine, King’s College London and Distinguished Research Fellow, Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, Faculty of Philosophy, University of Oxford.

Dr Alan Haworth, Philosopher and Author

Dr Peter J. King, Lecturer in Philosophy, Pembroke College

Professor Maggie Kinloch, Professor Emerita and former Deputy Principal of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland

Dr Michael Irwin, Former Medical Director for the United Nations

Dr Henry Marsh, Bestselling author and Neurosurgeon

The Revd Dr Scott S McKenna

Professor Sheila McLean LLB, Emeritus Professor of Law and Ethics in Medicine, University of Glasgow

Professor Richard Norman, Emeritus professor of moral philosophy, University of Kent

Professor Eric Olson, Professor of Philosophy, University of Sheffield

Professor Janet Radcliffe Richards, Professor of practical philosophy, University of Oxford

Melanie Reid MBE, Author and Journalist

Dr Wendy Savage, Former member of the GMC and BMA’s Medical Ethics Committee

Dr Martin Scurr, GP and Medical Adviser Doc Martin

Professor Peter Simons, Professor of Philosophy, Trinity College Dublin

Lord Jeremy Purvis

Professor Raymond Tallis, Emeritus Professor of Geriatric Medicine University of Manchester

Nigel Warburton, freelance philosopher

Professor John White, Emeritus Professor of Philosophy of Education, University College London.

Notes:

For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK Press Manager Casey-Ann Seaniger at casey@humanism.org.uk or phone 020 7324 3078 or 07393 344293.

See the letter in The Guardian.

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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