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The Assisted Dying Bill clears its first hurdle in an historic debate in the House of Lords

Lord Falconer’s Bill moves closer to becoming law by progressing to Committee Stage

Lord Falconer’s Assisted Dying Bill had its Second Reading today, which resulted in 9 hours 43 minutes of debate. There were 126 speakers, a record for a debate in the House of Lords, and 64 spoke in support of the Bill, 3 were neutral and 59 spoke against. The last time a Bill of this kind was debated, in 2006, it fell at Second Reading due to a ‘wrecking’ amendment tabled by Peers opposed to a change in the law.

Lord Falconer said:

We have heard today many examples of people suffering against their wishes at the end of life. It is my hope that Parliament has taken a significant step towards a safeguarded law fit for the 21st Century, which provides both greater choice and protection at the end of life.

I commend the House of Lords for the quality of today’s debate. Crucially, Peers on both sides of the argument realised the importance of debating this Bill further and in detail at a Committee of the Whole House, clause by clause, safeguard by safeguard.

Sarah Wootton, Chief Executive of Dignity in Dying said:

I believe that the debate on assisted dying has now evolved, partly as a result of the recent Supreme Court Judgment. The focus is not on whether the law should change, but on how it should change. There is real momentum behind the Bill; an overwhelming majority of the public has consistently supported change, and the traditional opposition from faith leaders and medics is beginning to crumble.

This is a campaign driven by members of the public, and supporters of Dignity in Dying who are facing difficult end-of-life choices, or have witnessed the suffering of a loved one. They will be heartened today by the way that Peers have constructively engaged with this important and timely debate. We look forward to the Committee stage of the Bill with confidence.


Notes to editor:

About the Second Reading debate:

The Second Reading debate is the first stage of a Bill’s progress through Parliament. It represents a debate on the principles of the Bill, rather than the details of the legislation. The last attempt (in 2006) to legalise assisted dying for terminally ill, mentally competent adults did not pass this stage. Lord Joffe’s Bill was rejected, following a wrecking amendment, by 148 votes to 100, showing that the House of Lords did not at that time agree with the principle of assisted dying.

Dignity in Dying campaigns for greater choice, control and access to services at the end of life. It advocates providing terminally ill adults with the option of an assisted death, within strict legal safeguards, and for universal access to high quality end-of-life care. Dignity in Dying has over 25,000 supporters and receives its funding entirely from donations from the public.

Media spokespeople & contact:

We can offer interviews with a variety of case studies, Peers and experts upon request. For all Dignity in Dying media enquiries, please contact Jo Cartwright on 020 7479 7737 / 07725 433025 or at