Humanists UK has renewed calls for compassionate assisted dying legislation for people who are terminally ill or incurably, intolerably suffering. It has done so in submissions to consultations and calls for evidence in the UK Parliament, Jersey, and the Isle of Man.
Humanists UK submitted evidence to the House of Commons Health and Social Care Committee’s inquiry into assisted dying, the first such inquiry held by the UK Parliament since 2005. The inquiry is considering the situation across England and Wales. Humanists UK stressed the importance of listening to the accounts of people who have been affected by the current blanket ban on assisted dying. We will publish our response in due course.
Channel Island Humanists responded to the States Assembly in Jersey’s consultation on assisted dying. It welcomed the detailed legislative proposals, which include many sensible safeguards and processes. It however raised concerns with some of the suggestions, such as allowing family members to appeal assisted dying decisions. We believe that individual autonomy is important and family members who disagree with assisted dying, perhaps for religious reasons, shouldn’t be able to be a barrier. It urged against premise owners and operators from being able to conscientiously object. We believe that an individual’s freedom of conscience should be balanced against the rights of others and if this level of conscientious objection were allowed many people, such as those in religious-run care homes, could be denied their rights. Jersey Assembly members voted to approve assisted dying ‘in principle’ in 2021 following a Citizens’ Jury and legislation is due to come into effect by the end of 2025.
Humanists UK responded to the Isle of Man’s consultation on assisted dying, the first step in Dr Alex Allinson MHK’s Assisted Dying Private Members’ Bill. Members of the Tynwald (the island’s Parliament) voted 22 to 2 for the Bill to be introduced. The Bill is currently modelled on Baroness Meacher’s Assisted Dying Bill and would allow terminally ill, mentally competent adults the choice of an assisted death. Humanists UK urged parliamentarians to expand the scope to also cover people who are incurably, intolerably suffering. A draft Bill should be published soon and will then be reviewed by a committee of the Tynwald.
These consultations and calls for evidence are the latest in a string of moves by local jurisdictions. In France, a ‘citizen’s convention’ will be launched on 9 December and a law is expected to be introduced with President Macron’s backing in March. In the Republic of Ireland, a special Oireachtas committee is due to launch this month to examine assisted dying. In Scotland, the Assisted Dying Bill will enter the first stage of debate early this year, after 36 MSPs backed the move.
Humanists UK Assisted Dying Campaigner Nathan Stilwell said:
‘It is refreshing to see so much progress happening when it comes to engaging with the public and organisations on the issue of assisted dying. People desperately need to see progress and people in positions of power should listen closely to the voices of dying people and their families.
‘Everyone should be able to make informed decisions about the end of their lives and politicians should take a compassionate, common-sense approach to this issue. No one should have to suffer unnecessary pain and indignity at the end of their lives’
For further comment or information, media should 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.
Read more about a decade of campaigning for the legal right to die – at home and abroad.
Read more about our campaign to legalise assisted dying in the UK.
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