Comment: Case for assisted dying is overwhelming

 

Chief executive of the British Humanist Association

Barring a decision by the Supreme Court, judges have made it clear that is up to politicians to act to change the law in support of the principle of assisted dying. The case for them to do so is overwhelming.

This is the biggest bio-ethical issue of our time. It already affects so many people but in the coming years it is going to touch the lives of an ever increasing number, as improvements in medical science allow us to keep people alive way beyond the point at which they might wish to live. It is unrealistic to think we can ignore it.

Some 80 per cent of the British public already supports the fight of these brave people and their families who are seeking legal change. There's a majority in favour of change greater than on any other political issue. It is undemocratic to ignore that.

Why should it be left instead to Paul Lamb and the Nicklinson family and those like them who have suffered so much to drag themselves through courts to bring about these necessary changes? It's irresponsible to stand by and simply watch.

Dying is part of life - it is the last thing any of us is going to do and we are all going to do it. It should happen if possible with dignity and within our control and we have the means today to guarantee that to every person. That should include the facility for mentally competent men and women who have shown a settled determination to end their lives and who are facing a continuing existence of suffering or who are terminally ill to get the help they need.

Scare-mongering has been allowed to persist exactly because the issue is only ever dealt with in the abstract and this would be ended by a proper public consideration of the facts. Politicians should act now to address this issue. The continuing failure to act is a standing rebuke to our view of ourselves as a civilised and humane society.

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