Next year, the 1961 Suicide Act will be 50 years old. During that time, society’s opinion of death and dying has changed considerably and there is now overwhelming support for a change in the law on assisted dying for terminally ill, mentally competent adults.
Without a change in the law, terminally ill people will suffer against their wishes at the end of life and will continue to make decisions without the advice of medical or social care professionals.
Those who can afford to will travel abroad for an assisted death, others will attempt suicide behind closed doors, some will refuse food and water to bring about their death, and far too many will ask family members and loved ones to help them die. All will be denied the choice of safe assisted death, in their own home, at a time of their choosing.
None of these options offer open and honest conversations with health and social care professionals and the only deterrent against abuse is the threat of prosecution after somebody has died. Assisted dying legislation would introduce up-front safeguards to check for abuse and coercion before somebody dies. Essentially it would investigate a living person’s request to die rather than investigate a dead person’s death.