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The case for a change in the law on assisted dying is now even stronger

The British Humanist Association (BHA) has reaffirmed its commitment to work for a change in the law to legalise assisted dying in the UK, in light of today’s publication of the Director of Public Prosecution’s (DPP) final prosecution guidelines on assisted dying.

Andrew Copson, BHA Chief Executive, commented, ‘The DPP Guidelines attempt to do in part what Parliament has thus far failed to, and that is to distinguish between where a person has compassionately assisted another to die, and where that was done with malicious intent or murder. But these Guidelines will always be retrospective, after an assisted death has taken place. Terminally ill or incurably suffering people do not have full autonomy and choice at end of life, and those that are vulnerable are still at risk because legal safeguards, which would accompany the legalisation of assisted dying, are not in place to protect them from coercion or other malice.’

Mr Copson continued, ‘Now is the time for Parliamentarians to reform the law to one that upholds people’s fundamental human right to die with dignity, in a manner of their choosing. Under a reformed law, the choice of an assisted death would not be instead of palliative care for terminally ill people, but a core part of a comprehensive, patient-centred approach to end of life care, available for as many people who want it.’


For further comment or information, please contact Andrew Copson on 07534 248596.

The law on assisted dying in the UK does not distinguish between those who compassionately assist another to die, including where they have accompanied them abroad for a legal assisted death, and those who kill with malicious intent.

The DPP final guidelines have been published following a public consultation on the interim guidelines in September 2009, and clarify the issues that will be taken into account when deciding whether or not to consent to the prosecution of individuals who assist someone to die, including when people have accompanied loved ones abroad for an assisted death.

The judgment in the prominent case of Debbie Purdy, a multiple sclerosis sufferer, who won her case in the UK’s highest court. The judgment required that the DPP publish clear guidance, showing when it would or would not prosecute someone for assisting someone to die. This is not a change in the law; assisted dying remains illegal.

Read the DPP’s prosecution policy and guidance on assisted dying.

Read more about the BHA’s work on reforming the law on assisted dying.

The British Humanist Association is the national charity representing and supporting the interests of ethically concerned, non-religious people in the UK.

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