Breakthrough in assisted dying debate
Vote in the House of Lords sees unanimous support for judicial oversight of assisted dying.
“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 have identified a uniquely British model of providing both greater choice and greater protection at the end of life.”
This afternoon, Peers in the House of Lords have unanimously accepted an amendment to the Assisted Dying Bill, tabled by Lord Pannick and supported by Lord Falconer, which introduces the safeguard of judicial oversight.
The amendment would require a judge in the family division of the High Court to confirm that a terminally ill patient, with less than six months to live, has reached “a voluntary, clear, settled and informed” decision to control the time and manner of their death. This amendment was preferred to a more onerous model of judicial oversight, which would have required a judge to reach a decision on whether a patient’s request was in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights. This was tabled by Lord Carlile, who has long opposed a change in the law. Lady Mallalieu, who co-signed Lord Pannick’s accepted amendment, described Lord Carlile’s proposal as a “legalistic and bureaucratic obstacle race for dying people”.
Sarah Wootton, Chief Executive of Dignity in Dying, said:
“Today in the House of Lords we are seeing a battle between those who are seeking a constructive way forward, and those who, rather than identifying appropriate safeguards, are seeking to place barriers in the way of dying people having control over their death. Whether the law should change seems to have been settled, it is about how the law changes.
“The acceptance of Lord Pannick’s amendment is evidence that reason and common sense are winning the day. 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 have identified a uniquely British model of providing both greater choice and greater protection at the end of life.
“We need to remember why we are having this debate and that is because the courts and the public have made clear that the status quo is unacceptable for terminally ill people. It causes unnecessary suffering. Rather than stick their heads in the sand the opponents of the Bill now need to recognise that change is coming and either engage in the debate or decide to vote it down. We no longer believe that they have the numbers to do that. It is time for a safeguarded change in the law”.