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Tue, 27 October 2020

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Irish assisted dying bill step closer to becoming law

Dignity in Dying

3 min read Partner content

TDs vote 81 to 71 to progress Dying with Dignity Bill to committee stage

TDs in Ireland’s Dáil tonight (Wednesday 7 October 2020) voted to progress a Dying with Dignity Bill to committee stage, bringing the option of assisted dying for terminally ill Irish citizens a step closer to becoming legal. The bill will now undergo pre-legislative scrutiny in one of the Dáil’s select committees, after an amendment tabled by the coalition government that would have delayed the bill’s passage was defeated.

The vote follows a debate last Thursday in which a majority of speakers backed law change, with many TDs citing powerful testimony from constituents who have suffered under Ireland’s blanket ban on assisted dying. It comes as New Zealand prepares to hold the world’s first national referendum on assisted dying next week, after its Parliament passed an End of Life Choice Bill last year.

Andrew Mitchell, Conservative MP and former Cabinet Minister, and Karin Smyth, Labour MP and vice-chair of the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly – both co-chairs of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Choice at the End of Life – have commended Irish TDs for addressing this issue and re-stated the urgent need for an inquiry into the UK’s own assisted dying laws.

Andrew Mitchell said, “With COVID-19 exacerbating even further the suffering of terminally ill Brits and their families under the UK’s ban on assisted dying, it is more pressing than ever that we re-examine these laws. How can it be claimed they are working well, when our own citizens are resorting to horrific suicide methods at home because they cannot get to Dignitas?

“Parliamentarians in Ireland, New Zealand, Australia and the US have examined the evidence and concluded that safe, compassionate assisted dying legislation can and should be implemented. Are we really to accept that the UK is so different?”

Karin Smyth said, “Ireland has taken great strides in recent years to provide its citizens with the freedom of choice that has existed across most of the UK for some time. And yet on the matter of assisted dying we are leagues behind our neighbours.

“Just as in Ireland, our current laws on assisted dying deny dying people choice and criminalise acts of compassion. TDs are rightly taking action and so must we, starting with an inquiry into the full impact of this  outdated legislation.”

Sarah Wootton, Chief Executive of Dignity in Dying, said, “Tonight’s assisted dying vote in Ireland was a victory for common-sense and compassion, and should give our MPs pause for thought. While politicians around the world give assisted dying the attention it deserves, the UK is lagging shamefully behind and terminally ill people and their loved ones are bearing the brunt of our inaction. 

“There is a growing clamour from across society for an urgent review of our cruel laws. Cross-party Parliamentarians, Police and Crime Commissioners, interfaith leaders and senior figures in the medical profession, including most recently Emeritus Medical Director of Public Health England Paul Cosford, all recognise that the ban on assisted dying is simply not working. COVID-19 has intensified longstanding problems with death and dying in this country, including the woeful lack of meaningful choice and control. We must address these problems now in the form of an inquiry - not in spite of the pandemic, but because of it.”

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