The Commission on Assisted Dying was set up in September 2010. This report says the legal status of assisted suicide is inadequate and incoherent currently in England and Wales. It asserts that the legal regime – as it stands – can be distressing for the people (and their families) concerned, is unclear for health and social care staff, and places the burden of proof on police and prosecutors. A new alternative statutory framework for assisted dying is proposed, with strict criteria about who might be eligible to receive assistance balanced by robust safeguards to prevent abuse.
Demos (2012). The Commission on Assisted Dying. London: Demos, 2012. ISBN 978-1-906693-92-3. (First published in 2011).
Updates: July 2014
Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury now backs proposals to allow terminally ill people obtain help to end their lives:
Assisted dying: Church of England seeks inquiry. London: BBC Health News, July 12th 2014.
Walsh, F. (2014). Stephen Hawking: Why I support Assisted Dying. London: BBC Health News, July 16th 2014.
Further, Care Minister Norman Lamb (speaking in a personal capacity) is now in favour of assisted dying in certain circumstances:
Care minister Norman Lamb backs assisted dying bill. London: BBC Health News, July 17th 2014.
The contrary position:
Walsh, F. (2014). Tanni Grey-Thompson: Assisted dying ‘a dangerous path’. London: BBC Health News, July 17th 2014.
The House of Lords debates former Labour Lord Chancellor Lord Falconer’s Assisted Dying Bill:
House of Lords to debate assisted dying bill. London: BBC Health News, July 18th 2014.
The bill passed its second reading in the House of Lords:
Assisted dying law would lessen suffering says Falconer. London: BBC Health / Politics News, July 18th 2014.
May 2015 Update
Walsh, F. (2015). The assisted dying debate. London: BBC Health News, May 27th 2015.
September 2015 Update
Under the bill brought before the Commons by Labour MP Rob Marris (MP for Wolverhampton South West) two doctors and a High Court judge would be required to agree to assisted dying for each patient. They would need to be satisfied that the patient is mentally competent, has less than six months to live and has been informed of alternative palliative care options. The patient would have to administer the medication to end his / her own life, not a healthcare worker, to avoid risks of euthanasia.
Assisted Dying Bill: Fresh debate on ‘right to die’. London: BBC Health News, September 11th 2015.
This relates to:
Assisted Dying (No. 2) Bill 2015-16. London: House of Commons, September 4th 2015. HC Bill 7 2015-16.
Further BBC News coverage:
Walsh, F. (2015). ‘I don’t fear death’. London: BBC Health News, September 10th 2015.
The bill was defeated; 118 MPs were in favour, but 330 were against, allowing some terminally ill adults the right to die with medical supervision. It is unlikely politicians will debate this issue again in the near future, despite public opinion.
Gallagher, J. [and] Roxby, P. (2015). Assisted Dying Bill: MPs reject ‘right to die’ law. London: BBC Health News, September 11th 2015.
Journal of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh Debate
The parallel debate in the JRCPE:
Catto, G. [and] Finlay, IG. (2014). Assisted death: a basic right or a threat to the principal purpose of medicine? The Journal of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh (JRCPE). 2014. Vol. 44(2), pp.134-136.
Note: The JRCPE links above also cater for the following:
Finlay, IG. (2014). Assisted dying laws do not take into account the reality of clinical practice and patients’ lives. The Journal of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh (JRCPE). 2014. Vol. 44(2), pp.137-138.
Possibly of interest:
Gill Pharaoh’s decision to attend suicide clinic defended. London: BBC Health News, August 3rd 2015.
July 2017 Update
The High Court is examining the legal challenge from a terminally ill UK man with MND, Noel Conway, who wants the right to die.
Walsh, F. (2017). Terminally ill man Noel Conway in right-to-die fight. London: BBC Health News, July 17th 2017.