MPs are being urged to bring forward the debate on legalising assisted dying amid renewed calls for revisions in the law from, amongst others, pro-change group Dignity in Dying. At the same time, The Crown Prosecution Service has said that charges would now be unlikely in cases where a victim clearly wanted to die and the suspect was under “emotional pressure” to assist. Noel Conway, a retired lecturer, campaigned against the ban on assisted dying after being diagnosed with motor neurone disease. He died at home in 2021, supported by his family and a local hospice, after taking the decision to switch off his ventilator.
After Mr Conway’s death, his wife Carol said: “Noel was in control, which was so important.” Now prosecutors have helped pave the way to legalising so-called “mercy killings” by introducing updated guidance on when those assisting death should escape charges, and setting out the public interest factors when considering whether a case goes to court. Polls and surveys show growing support for legalised assisted dying, even amongst those with strong religious beliefs.
A YouGov poll for Dignity in Dying found that of 1,844 people surveyed in England and Wales, 78% said they tended to, or strongly supported, a change in the law. And 766 of those surveyed said they belonged to a religion, with 69% of them saying they tended to, or strongly supported, the change. And research by Ipsos UK showed that two-thirds of the public support legalising assisted dying, with 38% of those also saying it is acceptable to break the current laws, against 29% who said it is not. According to figures from the Office for National Statistics, around one person with severe and terminal illnesses kills themselves every day in England. Many more travel to countries like Switzerland, one of several European nations with more relaxed laws on assisted dying, to end their lives. The last time parliament considered legalising assisted dying, in 2015, MPs voted against the motion by 330 to 118. And opponents of assisted dying continue to warn that the practice would increase the risk of coercion and abuse of the elderly.