Assisted dying – Parliament should get on with it

29 February, 2024

The Health and Social Care Committee’s report on assisted dying has been published today. Humanists UK has welcomed the evidence-based nature of the report, but expressed disappointment that the committee missed the opportunity to draw firm conclusions or recommend specific changes to the law.

Although the report does not make any recommendations for or against legislative change, it does answer some of the myths spread by opponents of change. The report clearly states that end-of-life care can and has improved in jurisdictions that have legalised it:

‘In the evidence we received we did not see any indications of palliative and end-of-life care deteriorating in quality or provision following the introduction of [assisted dying]; indeed the introduction of [it] has been linked with an improvement in palliative care in several jurisdictions.’ (Page 53. Para 142)

The report highlights that guidance is currently inconsistent and difficult for doctors, especially if patients request records to assist them in having an assisted death abroad. It recommends revised guidance from the GMC and the BMA enabling doctors to assist their patients.

Andrew Copson, Chief Executive of Humanists UK said:

‘We are pleased to see that this report has made it absolutely clear that assisted dying can have a positive effect on end-of-life choices and that the public deserve agency and choice. However, the report doesn’t make any recommendations for legislative change. Despite the case being urgent and unarguable, the committee has missed the opportunity to move the debate forward.

Both Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer are aware of the terrible position that our current legislation puts people who are intolerably suffering and they both agree that a proper debate and vote on this subject is needed. Parliament should get on with it.’

Lauren Nicklinson, daughter of Tony Nicklinson who took his case for the right to die to the high court, said:

‘It’s such a shame that this report is such a waste of time. People like my father deserved the right to make decisions about their own lives and then many significant figures like Esther Rantzen and Diana Rigg have joined the call for a change in the law. Despite all the evidence in the report showing that the current status quo is untenable and that legalising assisted dying is positive and dignified, the committee have failed to recommend change.

The next parliament must legalise assisted dying. The evidence is clear, the people are united in wanting change and not one more Brit should have to go through what my dad, and my entire family, had to endure.’ 

Humanists UK previously expressed concerns about the composition of the Committee last year as it revealed over 60% previously opposed assisted dying reform

Efforts were made by Committee members (see p. 118) to have the report call for Government to secure time for the next parliament to have a full debate on assisted dying and to note that ‘the evidence we heard from other jurisdictions has shown that assisted dying can be introduced safely and successfully’, however this was voted down by 3-2 votes.

Another paragraph of the report (119) was amended to remove the Committee concluding that our prohibitive law means that assisted dying is available for those who can pay to travel abroad for an assisted death however this was overturned by 3-2 votes.

A call for the Government to commission a review of the impact of existing assisted dying legislation while maintaining a neutral position was also refused by 4-2 votes (p. 120).

If you are struggling to cope, please call Samaritans for free on 116 123 (UK and ROI) or contact other sources of support, such as those listed on the NHS Help for suicidal thoughts webpages. Support is available round the clock, every single day of the year, providing a safe place for anyone struggling to cope, whoever they are, however they feel, and whatever life has done to them.


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 our analysis of the assisted dying inquiry

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

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