People suffering from terminal or incurable illnesses deserve to be able to die with dignity, and on their own terms.

For more than 300 million people around the world, this is already possible. Last year, the Republic of Ireland voted to move forward on proposals which will legalise assisted dying.

Please ask your MLAs to support the same choices for those who are terminally ill or incurably suffering in Northern Ireland, by pledging to support legal assisted dying.

We’ve suggested some text you can use, but please, if you are able, do edit it to make it more personal – we know that MLAs are inundated with emails and a personalised message is infinitely more powerful than a standard letter.

Tips on adapting your letter

  • If you personally need the law to change, or have a loved one who needs/deserved a meaningful choice over their death, you could highlight the cruel impact of our current law upon those choices.
  • If you are a doctor, nurse, or healthcare professional, you could explain why you support patient autonomy, and discuss the existing ways our law balances end-of-life choices and robust safeguards.
  • If you are a citizen of the Republic of Ireland, you may want to talk about your views on the ‘Death with Dignity Bill’ and whether you would consider travelling to the south for a legal assisted death.

The case for change

  • Dying in a manner of your own choosing is a fundamental human right.
  • Despite the best efforts of palliative care, modern medicine’s ability to extend the length of someone’s life has not been matched by the ability to improve its quality as well. Therefore, even if everyone in Northern Ireland had access to the best possible palliative care available, at any given time at least 161 people are dying in pain with no relief at all, and 1,381 people would suffer with only partial relief.
  • Research from the UK Assisted Dying Coalition has found that more than one UK citizen a week is now forced to end their life abroad. But, many others cannot afford the high costs of travelling to Switzerland. The right to die should not be limited to those with means.
  • The current law forces families to make an intolerable choice: either to let their loved ones suffer; or support them, and risk imprisonment or criminal investigation for assisting them to die.
  • There is no credible evidence from jurisdictions which have legalised assisted dying that vulnerable people will be pressured to end their life.

What can I do to help support legal assisted dying in Northern Ireland?

Helping someone to end their life is banned in Northern Ireland under the Criminal Justice Act 1966, and those found guilty face up to 14 years’ imprisonment. As justice powers are devolved to the Northern Ireland Assembly, it is for your MLAs to decide whether to continue prohibiting legal, safe, and compassionate assisted dying. The best way you can bring this issue to their attention is by writing to them or arranging to see them at their constituency surgeries.