New Lords Bill seeks to legalise assisted dying

14 May, 2021

Baroness Meacher

A Bill that proposes to legalise assisted dying for adults of sound mind who have six or fewer months left to live has secured seventh place in the House of Lords Private Members’ Bill ballot. The Bill is being put forward by Baroness Meacher, who is the Chair of Dignity in Dying. Humanists UK, which campaigns for a right to die for both those with terminal or incurable illnesses, has welcomed the Bill for creating a much needed opportunity for debate.

Helping someone to end their life is a criminal offence in England and Wales, which carries a maximum prison sentence of up to fourteen years in jail. However, if the Assisted Dying Bill becomes law, people suffering from terminal illnesses could be helped to die provided they reached a voluntary decision, and were able to satisfy an independent judge they had made their choice free from coercion. Those suffering from incurable conditions, such as Paul Lamb, would not be eligible for assistance.

Opinion polling shows that changing the law on assisted dying for both those with terminal illnesses or incurable conditions is overwhelmingly popular, with roughly nine in ten people backing a change in the law.

Since it was drawn seventh, the Bill is likely to be debated over the coming year. If it receives sufficient support, it could theoretically become law.

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

‘Allowing people to choose the manner and moment of their own death is the hallmark of a compassionate society and should be a basic human right. As a first step towards a kinder, inclusive, and more dignified law on assisted dying, we welcome the introduction of this Bill and the opportunity it will create for parliamentarians to consider the overwhelming evidence favouring a change in the law.

‘With the prospect of reform now seriously on the table, we urge lawmakers to immediately instigate an inquiry into assisted dying. This will make sure that politicians are equipped with the latest, up-to-date, and robust evidence required for an informed debate.’

The Bill is due to have its first reading in the House of Lords on 26 May. This is where the Bill is formally presented, but no substantial debate happens at this stage. A full debate is expected to be scheduled in due course.


For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson at or phone 020 7324 3072 or 020 3675 0959.

Read more about our campaign to legalise 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.

In 2021, Humanists UK is celebrating its 125th anniversary with a renewed focus on its history. The new website Humanist Heritage is a rich new web resource that uncovers the untold story of humanism in the UK – a story of people, groups, objects, places, movements, publications, and ideas.