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Lords assisted dying amendment fails

The House of Lords has voted against an amendment to the Health and Care Bill that would have required UK Government action on assisted dying. The amendment would have required the Government to draft a bill on assisted dying within a year and lay it before Parliament. Humanists UK briefed peers in support of it, and is dismayed at the result.

179 Peers voted against the amendment, compared to 145 votes in favour. The Government whipped against it despite previously stating assisted dying was an ‘issue of conscience’. It said it did so because it was concerned about the precedent that would have been set by a law requiring the Government to introduce another one.

The amendment was put forward by Lord Forsyth of Drumlean, Lord Baker of Dorking, Baroness Meacher, and Lord Falconer of Thoroton. Humanists UK briefed peers in support of it. However, it focused solely on permitting terminally ill, mentally competent adults to have an assisted death. Humanists UK also supports assisted dying for the incurably suffering, and would like to see legislation cover them too. Prominent right to die campaigners who have led the fight for reform, such as Tony Nicklinson and Paul Lamb, would not have the right to die if a law for the terminally ill only was introduced.

Many peers who are members of the All-Party Parliamentary Humanist Group (APPHG) spoke in support of the amendment during the debate. Many peers also complained about the Government’s lack of neutrality on it. They also complained about how the Government seems unlikely to allow the separate Assisted Dying Bill enough time to pass through Parliament before it will automatically fall. That will happen at the end of the current session in May.

Humanists UK Assisted Dying Campaigner Nathan Stilwell said:

‘The failure of this amendment robs those who need an assisted death of the choice, dignity, and autonomy as to when to end their lives. Allowing people to choose the manner and moment of their own death is the hallmark of a compassionate society and should be a basic right.

‘We call on the Government and Parliament to 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.’


For further comment or information, media should contact Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson at or phone 020 7324 3072 or 07534 248 596.

Read amendment 170 to the Health and Care Bill.

Read more about our campaign to legalise assisted dying in the UK.

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.

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