Banning assisted dying undermines right to dignity and individual autonomy, Humanists UK tells UN

12 March, 2020

UN in Geneva

Humanists UK has called for states to legalise assisted dying, subject to robust safeguards, in its intervention at the 43rd session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

Humanists UK’s representative Tallulah Gordon told the UN, ‘The case of Carter v. Canada, which legalised assisted dying in 2015, stated the prohibition forced the incurably suffering to face the dilemma of either “continuing to suffer or exposing others to criminal sanctions” and, in many cases, to seek inhumane ways of ending their lives. Legal restrictions deny people the right to “respect for inherent dignity (and) individual autonomy, including the freedom to make one’s own choices.”’

She continued, ‘We believe that sensible and stringent safeguards can be introduced to ensure that those who request an assisted death have made a clear decision, free from coercion, to do so. There is overwhelming evidence, in countries where assisted dying is legal, that safeguards are effective. In the Australian state of Victoria, all assisted dying cases since its legalisation have been compliant with safeguards.’

In her closing remarks, Ms Gordon called ‘on member states to recognise that far from protecting the value of vulnerable persons, preventing the incurably suffering from accessing an assisted death if they choose discriminates against the right to dignity and individual autonomy for those who want an assisted death, and therefore diminishes their status and quality of life.’

Humanists UK is a founding member of the Assisted Dying Coalition.


For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK press manager Casey-Ann Seaniger at or phone 020 7324 3078.

Read Humanists UK’s intervention at the UN here.

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

At Humanists UK, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. Our work brings non-religious people together to develop their own views, helping people be happier and more fulfilled in the one life we have. Through our ceremonies, education services, and community and campaigning work, we strive to create a fair and equal society for all.