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Dignity in Dying

On Wednesday 26 May 2021, a Private Member’s bill is due for its first reading in the House of Lords. Baroness Meacher, Chair of ‘Dignity in Dying’ has introduced the bill to propose legalised assisted dying. It will enable competent adults who are terminally ill to be provided at their request with specified assistance to end their own life.

The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, the Rt Hon Matt Hancock MP requested more data from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) by April of this year, on suicides by terminally ill people and the possible impact of the ban on assisted dying. He has stated the Government’s intention to obtain a fuller understanding of the current laws and the importance of evidence-based debate.

The bill is based on a bill introduced by Lord Falconer in 2014. A similar bill introduced by Rob Marris MP was defeated in the Commons in 2015. The law on assisted death in the UK currently means that it is prohibited under the Suicide Act 1961 (see our briefing).

Several countries around the world have recently passed assisted dying legislation and others, including Scotland and Jersey are debating the issues, or considering reform. The restrictions imposed by the pandemic have curtailed travel to Dignitas which says Sarah Wootton, Chief Executive of Dignity in Dying has meant that ‘terminally ill Brits have been forced to suffer against their wishes or take matters into their own hands.’

The bill will have to pass through multiple stages before becoming law, including going through the Commons. The process of parliamentary consideration means that progress can be unpredictable. It is already high up in the Private Member’s bill ballot which will raise awareness of the issues in any event. It has been several years since the issue of assisted suicide was before Parliament and we will wait to see if attitudes have changed to the extent that has been suggested by campaigners in favour.


This briefing is for guidance purposes only. RadcliffesLeBrasseur LLP accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever for any action taken or not taken in relation to this note and recommends that appropriate legal advice be taken having regard to a client's own particular circumstances.

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