NSS welcomes parliamentary inquiry into assisted dying

Posted: Wed, 7th Dec 2022

NSS welcomes parliamentary inquiry into assisted dying

The National Secular Society has welcomed the health and social care committee's decision to open a parliamentary inquiry into assisted dying in 2023.

Announced on Monday, the inquiry has put out a call for evidence from healthcare professionals and campaign groups. Members of the public have also been invited to make anonymised submissions to the committee. The inquiry's recommendations will then be put to the government.

The NSS will make a submission calling for reform of the existing law in England and Wales, under which helping an individual to die is punishable by up to 14 years' imprisonment.

Committee chair Steven Brine MP said: "What has changed in recent years is that there is now real-word evidence to look at. We will look at the moral, ethical and practical concerns raised in a way that is informed by actual evidence."

YouGov polling from 2021 found over 70% of Britons support reforms to legalise assisted dying.

All 26 bishops in the House of Lords, who enjoy automatic seats by right, have opposed changes to the law. Religious groups, including some opposed to same-sex marriage and abortion rights, have also lobbied against reform.

Last year, Baroness Meacher introduced a private member's bill which would have legalised assisted dying for mentally competent, terminally ill adults following approval by two independent doctors and a High Court judge. The government assigned it insufficient parliamentary time to progress.

Assisted dying is now legal in at least 27 jurisdictions worldwide. Since 2002, almost 500 Britons have resorted to travelling to Dignitas in Switzerland to receive help ending their lives. At an average cost of £10,000, this option remains out of reach for many.

NSS: 'Evidence-based inquiry welcome, if longer overdue'

NSS campaigns officer Dr Alejandro Sanchez said: "A parliamentary inquiry into assisted dying, informed by an evidence-based approach, is welcome, if long overdue.

"The British public overwhelmingly supports the legalisation of properly regulated assisted dying.

"For too long the bishops bench and religious pressure groups have sought to prevent scrutiny of this important area of the law.

"Religious dogma can no longer be allowed to prevent mentally competent, terminally ill adults from making their own decisions about end-of-life care."

If you would like to contribute your views to the inquiry, you can do so here.

Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash

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