Revealed: Government’s abandoned 2019 consultation on assisted dying

10 January, 2023

In 2019, the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) planned to conduct a ‘call for evidence’ on assisted dying, but the plans were abandoned. But now, four years later, Humanists UK is publishing the consultation paper for the first time. It obtained it through the Freedom of Information Act, and after the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) ordered the MoJ to deliver the paper after deciding that Humanists UK’s request was incorrectly refused.

Humanists UK recently welcomed the launch of the Health and Social Care Committee’s inquiry on assisted dying. It hopes the inquiry will listen to the voices of dying people, and take into account the enormous weight of international evidence that supports assisted dying. A citizens’ jury has recently concluded in Jersey, and another is just starting in France. A consultation on a Bill in Scotland has concluded.

In 2019, the former Secretary of State for Justice, David Gauke, instructed the Ministry of Justice to draft the paper to better inform parliamentary debate. The paper called for evidence about the positive and negative impacts of the current law in England and Wales, and asked for evidence from other countries and evidence about the potential impact of a change in the law.

Although the paper was completed, it was never released. No agreement was secured within Theresa May’s Government for the consultation to happen. And within a few months, there was a new Prime Minister, a new Government, and a new Justice Secretary.

Humanists UK Assisted Dying Campaigner Nathan Stilwell said:

‘We welcome the current parliamentary inquiry into assisted dying however this paper shows that foundations were laid for this work in 2019 and it is a shame it has taken so long for Parliament to properly examine it.’

‘90% of the public wants a compassionate assisted dying law. The people of England and Wales deserve the right to choice, dignity, and autonomy at the end of their lives.’

Humanists UK supports assisted dying for those of sound mind who are terminally ill or incurably suffering, and have a clear and settled wish to die.


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 020 3675 0959.

Humanists UK first requested the consultation paper from the MoJ in early 2020, after the change in Prime Minister/Government. It did so thinking that exemptions from the Freedom of Information Act related to ongoing policy development would by that stage have fallen away. The MoJ disagreed, so Humanists UK took the matter to the ICO. The ICO decided in Humanists UK’s favour last year, leading to the paper being published today.

Read the MoJ’s call for evidence.

Read the ICO’s decision.

Read more about progress on assisted dying over the last ten years.

Read the ONS study on suicides among people diagnosed with severe health conditions.

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.