Assisted dying bill moves closer to becoming law

The assisted dying bill is garnering more support, bolstering it on its path to becoming law, it has been suggested. 

The deputy chair of the British Medical Association (BMA), Dr Kailash Chand, has thrown his weight behind Lord Falconer’s assisted dying bill, saying that he expects assisted dying to become legal “within two years”.

Earlier this month, the controversial bill received an amendment from the House of Lords, who voted unanimously in favour to have all applications for assisted death subject to judicial oversight.

Under the guises of the bill, terminally ill patients who are deemed mentally capable with less than six months to live will be able to choose to end their life.

Speaking of the bill’s mounting support, Chand said: “No change is not an option.  The present law definitely needs changing.  It discriminates and is very bad law.  We currently have a two-tier system – one for the people who have the resources and money to go to the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland and another for the majority of people who don’t have the resources or money.”

However, many have voiced their concerns that the new law would lead to elderly and vulnerable people being pressured into ending their lives – possibility to alleviate the financial and emotional burden on their families.  It has been opposed by the BMA, which represents Britain’s doctors, as well as several religious groups.

In response, Chand suggested that the BMA is out of touch with public opinion.

He said:  “Look at the surveys.  Between 60% and 70% of the public are in favour of a change in the law.  Three-quarters of nurses are in favour.  Only the doctors’ community is not substantially in favour.  But if you ask a doctor a personal question whether, if they were in that sort of situation, would they want it, their answer would be yes.”

Meanwhile, Right-to-die campaigners hailed the vote from the House of Lords.

Sarah Wootton, chief executive of Dignity in Dying, said: “We have moved a significant step closer to a change in the law.  Reacting to pressure from the public and the courts, the House of Lords have accepted the principle of change and identified a uniquely British model of providing both greater choice and greater protection at the end of life.”

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Nigel is the Managing Partner and Head of Litigation and Dispute Resolution in the London office of Mackrell Turner Garrett.