Dignity in Dying
Who we are:
We are a national campaign and membership organisation. With our 25,000 supporters, we advocate greater choice and control to alleviate suffering at the end of life.
What we campaign for:
• A change in the law on assisted dying, alongside access to good palliative care.
• Assisted dying (as legalised and regulated in the US states of Oregon, Washington, Montana and Vermont) gives terminally ill, mentally competent adults choice and control over the time and manner of their death. It allows a dying person to self-administer life-ending medication when strict legal safeguards have been met.
What we DON’T campaign for:
• Assisted suicide (legal in Switzerland) which allows chronically ill and disabled people who are not dying to ask for help to end their life.
• Voluntary euthanasia (legal in the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg) which allows a doctor to directly administer life-ending medication to the patient at their request.
Why the law needs to change:
• At present some dying patients suffer against their wishes. Even the best palliative care cannot alleviate all suffering at the end of life.
• Britons are travelling abroad to die or ending their lives at home. Some who are unable to travel or cannot afford to do so attempt suicide alone, ask a loved one to help them die, or refuse food and water.
• Voluntary euthanasia happens now, accounting for approximately 1,000 of the 500,000 deaths per year in England and Wales.
• The current law does not protect patients. It provides no upfront safeguards. The prosecuting policy of the Director of Public Prosecutions, endorsed by the House of Commons in 2012, has effectively decriminalised amateur compassionate assistance to die. Yet all checks take place after a person has died: too late to prevent abuse.
• Only Parliament can provide a safeguarded process of assisted dying.
In Oregon, where assisted dying was legalised in 1997, assisted dying works safely and effectively. Eligibility has never been extended beyond terminal illness, nor has there been pressure for such a change. Numbers are low – assisted deaths have never amounted to more than 0.25% of all deaths per year – and there is no evidence that potentially vulnerable groups (such as people with disabilities, or people who are over 85) are negatively affected.
According to the experience in Oregon, people choose assisted dying for ‘person centred’ reasons, such as loss of autonomy, not due to external forces or lack of other options and nearly 100% of people assisted to die under the Oregon legislation were enrolled in hospice care. We know that around 40% of people who meet the strict safeguards to obtain the life-ending drugs never use them, simply taking comfort from having the option.
An assisted dying law gives a dying person choice and comfort, whilst providing better protection.