Ah, a half hour pause in front of the computer after doing 16 local radio interviews this morning about the launch today of our report from the Commission on Assisted Dying, on which I served. A very sympathetic response overall but we’ve also had the predictable responses from two ends of the debate from individuals and organisations who would rather not be troubled by the evidence. Over the last twelve months the Commission has held extensive public evidence hearings and consultations, conducted international research visits and commissioned expert briefing papers to produce the most comprehensive study to date of how a change in the law on assisted dying might affect English and Welsh citizens. Read it at www.commissiononassisteddying.co.uk.
The Commission finds there is a strong case to provide the choice of assisted dying to people who are suffering at the end of life and likely to die within twelve months, provided that they satisfy the eligibility criteria. People who might not have the mental capacity to make such a choice, who might be clinically depressed or experiencing pressure from friends or relatives, would be protected by a comprehensive set of safeguards.
The Commission also finds that the provision of high quality end of life care must be a priority for Government, independent of the issue of assisted dying. It recommends that in parallel with any change in the law, the Government should also take action to tackle inequalities in end of life care and ensure that good quality end of life care is available to every person approaching the end of their life.
Under the proposed framework, a dying person who met the legal criteria would be able to ask their doctor to prescribe them a dose of medication that would end their life. The person would need to be able to take the medication themselves, as a clear expression of the voluntariness of their choice. Appropriate practical support to take the medication should be provided if it is required by a terminally ill person with physically impairments but this could not take the form of another person administering the medication on their behalf (euthanasia). The Commission does not propose that any form of euthanasia might be allowed if the law were to be changed.
I want to stress how limited our proposals were, the criteria only includes those who are already quite near death and excludes many groups who might be thought to be suitable. We decided there must be more debate and more time for Society to assess how a limited provision works before going further.