Assisted dying “should be legalised”, report says

ASSISTED suicide should be made legal for terminally ill people in England and Wales, according to a new report.

The Commission on Assisted Dying, chaired by Lord Falconer, concluded that there is a “strong case” for providing terminally ill patients with less than 12 months to live with the choice of assisted suicide.

The Commission, set up and funded by campaigners who want the law to be changed, said the current legal status of assisted suicide is “inadequate and incoherent”. It said it was possible to allow assisted dying within a strict set of rules to ensure it was not abused.

But critics of the report have branded it “biased” and “seriously flawed”.

The Commission was made up of a wide range of experts including doctors, an ex-police commissioner, a leading consultant in disability equality, an Anglican priest, and medical, mental health, palliative care and social care specialists. Its report was produced following a 12 month consultation with evidence received from more than 1,200 sources.

The group said that the option of assisted suicide should be offered to patients who are over 18, terminally ill and judged as having less than 12 months to live, and who have the mental capacity to make a voluntary choice.

Patients would also need to be independently assessed by two doctors, the report said, and individuals would have to take the medicine themselves as euthanasia – where another person administers the substance – should not be allowed.

The Commission also called for improvements in end-of-life care so that people did not feel pushed towards assisted dying because of inadequate care.

But one of the 11 commissioners, Reverend Canon Dr James Woodward, disagreed with the conclusion and said now was not the right time to consider a change in the law.

Sarah Wootton, chief executive of Dignity in Dying, said the report provided a “comprehensive and robust evaluation of the evidence” on the issue and hoped the recommendations would “form the foundation of future legislative change.”

But Dr Peter Saunders, campaign director of Care Not Killing, an alliance of faith and disability groups and doctors, said: "This investigation was unnecessary, biased and lacking in transparency, and its report is seriously flawed.

"It is being spun as a comprehensive, objective and independent review into this complicated issue. It is anything but."

A spokeswoman for the British Medical Association, which refused to give evidence to the commission, said: "While, there is a spectrum of views on assisted dying within the medical profession, the BMA believes that the majority of doctors do not want to legalise assisted dying."

The government indicated there were no plans to change the law. A Ministry of Justice spokeswoman said: "The government believes that any change to the law in this emotive and contentious area is an issue of individual conscience and a matter for Parliament to decide rather than government policy."

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