A new Assisted Dying Bill has been introduced in the House of Lords. It would allow patients who are of sound mind and have less than six months to live to be assisted to end their lives. Humanists UK campaigns for legal assisted dying for both those with terminal and incurable illnesses. It has welcomed the Bill as an important step forward but urged lawmakers not to overlook the incurably suffering.
The Bill has been introduced by Baroness Meacher, who is the Chair of Dignity in Dying. Under the prospective law, two independent doctors and a High Court judge would have to assess each request. They would decide whether to grant permission before assistance could be provided.
The legislation represents an important milestone in the campaign to legalise assisted dying. But the Bill would not help those with incurable medical conditions, such as Tony Nicklinson. He suffered from locked-in-syndrome and fought a right-to-die case to change the law. 88 per cent of British adults support such a right, according to a 2019 poll.
Speaking to Sky News about the Bill, Lauren Nicklinson, Tony Nicklinson’s daughter, said:
‘Whilst Dignity in Dying campaign for the terminally ill – which we absolutely support – we do want to see it go further and Humanists UK and My Death, My Decision are very much at the forefront of that… [Those who are incurably suffering, like Tony] aren’t being publicly represented in the same way, but they still need to be fought for… Why isn’t their right to choose and autonomy being respected?… Why was Dad allowed to die in the way he did, when he could have had a much more peaceful way out?
‘This Bill coming forward today is really important but doesn’t go far enough. It wouldn’t help people like my dad who spent years trapped inside his own body, living a life he didn’t want to live – where he had no way out.’
Humanists UK’s Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson said:
‘Nobody should be forced to suffer in pain or indignity against their will. But under current laws, many people find themselves in such circumstances but are denied the right to die. We strongly endorse the principles of this Bill as an important first step towards securing a kind, fair, and compassionate law for the terminally ill. However, we urge lawmakers to recognise that incurably suffering people need the same degree of control over when to end their lives. People deserve equal respect and dignity, irrespective of whether they have six months to live or years of endless suffering.’
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.
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.