Dear Thangam Debbonaire MP,
I am writing as your constituent to urge you to support calls for an inquiry into the law banning assisted dying in England and Wales. I have been prompted to write after Dr Henry Marsh announced his advanced cancer diagnosis, and argued powerfully for the right to have the option to choose the time and manner of his own death. And in November 2020, the Court of Appeal refused Paul Lamb permission to challenge the law – which is likely to end the prospect of any change in the law as a result of a court decision. In other words, the matter is firmly one for Parliament to resolve.
I hope you can write on my behalf to the Secretary of State for Justice and Chairs of the Health, Justice, and Human Rights Select Committees, and call upon them to instigate a review into the law.
It has now been half a decade since MPs considered proposals to legalise assisted dying, and fifteen years since Parliament examined the law in any detail. The evidence available to scrutinise the current law and concerns about reform are now materially different. In particular, I would like to draw your attention to three factors.
- According to the UK Assisted Dying Coalition, at least one Briton each week now travels abroad for an assisted death. This represents a six-fold increase since Parliament last examined whether our laws are fit for purpose.
- Austria, Canada, Germany, Italy, New Zealand, Spain, and parts of the United States and Australia have changed their law since 2015, resulting in a wealth of new evidence and demonstrating that reform can be achieved in both a safe and compassionate manner.
- Medical opinion has dramatically shifted. Only recently, in the British Medical Association’s consultation on the matter – the largest survey of medical opinion on this issue in UK history – 50% of doctors said they personally support changing the law, with only 39% opposed, and if the law were to change, a majority favoured changing it for both the terminally ill and incurably suffering.
In light of these developments and the record levels of public support for assisted dying, I believe it is time for Parliament to review this issue again and that informed debate should be underpinned by an inquiry into the law.
I hope I can rely on your support in requesting that the Secretary of State and various Committee Chairs instigate an inquiry or call upon Parliament to do so.