The House of Commons’ Health and Social Care Committee has now published initial findings from the online public survey which asked respondents if they broadly agreed or disagreed with the current law on assisted dying in England and Wales. The findings do not state what percentage of respondents supported a change in the law, but commented on the most common influences on respondents’ views.
Most respondents in favour of a change in the current law stressed ‘the importance of voices of people with terminal illness and their families. Respondents felt that the views of healthcare professionals and experts should also be considered.’ Humanists UK agrees that compassion must be at the centre of the responses calling for change, and 96% of respondents said the key factor influencing the need for a change in the law would be to reduce suffering.
Conversely, 53% of those respondents wanting to retain the current ban on assisted dying in England and Wales were influenced by their personal views on ‘sanctity of life’. The summary of findings indicates that the views of religious groups were raised within some of these submissions.
The committee has visited Portland, Oregon to learn more about views across the debate, where assisted dying is legal, introduced by the Death with Dignity Act (1997).
The next stage of the inquiry is for the committee to gather views from across the debate at roundtable discussion events. The next event is an evidence session with international experts on 16 May 2023.
Public and professional opinion towards assisted dying have changed considerably in recent years: 90% of British adults now favour a change in the law. The British Medical Association and the Royal Colleges of Physicians and Nursing both opposed a change in the law in 2004, but both have since re-evaluated their stance and changed their position to neutrality.
Humanists UK Campaigns Manager Kathy Riddick said:
‘The inquiry into assisted dying is an opportunity to take evidence from people with personal experience of the failings with the current law as well as international experts where change has already been successfully implemented. The survey shows a real drive for compassion in this area from respondents seeking change, and this cannot be ignored in place of some respondents’ religious views about “sanctity of life”.
‘People who are terminally ill or incurably suffering deserve the right to make choices at the end of their lives. Assisted dying has always been an issue of freedom and autonomy.’
For further comment or information, media should contact Humanists UK Campaigns Manager Kathy Riddick at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 020 7324 3072 or 07534 248 596.
Read more about our campaign to legalise assisted dying in the UK.
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