Sir Keir Starmer joins senior politicians in calling for assisted dying debate

21 December, 2023

Pictured: Keir Starmer – Leader of the Labour Party of the United Kingdom ©UK Parliament / Jessica Taylor (CC BY-NC 2.0) Flickr

Sir Keir Starmer, leader of the Labour Party, has advocated for MPs to have the opportunity to vote on assisted dying. This announcement aligns with similar recent comments by other senior politicians, including Conservatives Michael Gove, Alicia Kearns, Mel Stride, and Tobias Ellwood who are backing a renewed parliamentary vote on this crucial issue. Humanists UK welcomes this development and the renewed growth in support of legal change.

The Labour leader told reporters:

‘I personally do think there are grounds for changing the law… Traditionally this has always been dealt with through a Private Members’ Bill and a free vote, and that seems appropriate to me.’

The Labour leader’s views come in the light of recent news that Dame Esther Rantzen, broadcaster and founder of the charity Childline, announced she joined the assisted dying centre Dignitas. She is currently undergoing treatment for stage four lung cancer. Avengers and Game of Thrones star Diana Rigg recently made headlines when her daughter released an audio recording of Rigg shortly before her death, where she made an impassioned case to legalise assisted dying.

The last time assisted dying was voted on in parliament was in 2015, where it was heavily defeated. 11 MPs who are now members of the shadow cabinet supported the 2015 bill. The last private member’s bill on the subject ran out of parliamentary time before a vote in 2021.

There have been no assisted dying bills announced, so it will not be debated in this parliamentary term. Key debates and votes on assisted dying are expected in Scotland, Isle of Man and Jersey in 2024.

Nathan Stilwell, Assisted Dying Campaigner for Humanist UK, said:

‘We welcome the renewed and powerful support for assisted dying, which has come in the light of Dame Esther Rantzen’s announcement that she has joined Dignitas. Senior politicians from across the political spectrum have backed a meaningful vote on assisted dying, something that voters overwhelmingly support.

‘It’s barbaric that the current law forces certain individuals to suffer – countries like Switzerland, Belgium and the Netherlands have had working, safe and compassionate assisted dying laws for decades. Adults of sound mind who are intolerably suffering from an incurable, physical condition, and have a clear and settled wish to die should have the option of an assisted death.’

Humanists UK campaigns for a humane law with robust safeguards so that terminally ill and incurably suffering people can freely choose when and how they die, if and when they should decide their suffering is too great to bear, and once palliative care options have been tried and exhausted.


For further comment or information, media should contact Humanists UK Assisted Dying Campaigner Nathan Stilwell at or phone 07456 200033.

If you have been affected by the current assisted dying legislation, and want to use your story to support a change in the law, please email 

Read six reasons we need an assisted dying law.

Read more about a decade of campaigning for the legal right to die – at home and abroad.

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 120,000 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.