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British Medical Journal grasps the nettle on assisted dying

Responding to a series of articles on assisted dying (see links below) published in The British Medical Journal today, Thursday 8th February 2018, Sarah Wootton, Chief Executive at Dignity in Dying, said:

“This week The British Medical Journal, a highly-respected publication read by thousands of medics in the UK and across the world, is rightly grasping the nettle on the important issue of assisted dying. This series of articles reveals just how out of step the medical establishment is with the views of many doctors, their patients and the general public.

“Contrary to the official positions of several medical organisations, including The British Medical Association, there is a wide range of views within the profession. Indeed, a poll reported in The BMJ this week reveals that 55% of doctors agree that assisted dying, in defined circumstances, should be legalised in the UK. Tomorrow (Friday) The Royal Society of Medicine is holding a sold-out conference on choice at the end of life, where doctors will hear from speakers on all sides of this issue sharing their professional and personal views. The appetite for open and frank debate is clearly growing.

“We know from experience overseas, particularly in US states like Oregon and California, that giving terminally ill people the choice of assisted dying benefits doctors and their patients alike. Recently the Australian state of Victoria voted to legalise assisted dying and New Zealand is set to debate it this year. Given the growing international evidence supporting assisted dying laws and the differing views of doctors in the UK, we welcome The BMJ’s calls for The BMA to poll its members and move to a neutral position on assisted dying to better reflect the diversity of opinion. We believe that change is inevitable, and that the debate must move on from a question of ‘should assisted dying be legalised in the UK’, to ‘when’ and ‘how’.”


The articles can be viewed online here:

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Notes to Editor

About Dignity in 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.

For more information, visit

Dignity in Dying is currently supporting the case of Noel Conway, 68, from Shrewsbury, who has brought a judicial review challenging the current law which bans assisted dying in the UK. Noel was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a form of motor neurone disease, in November 2014. His condition is incurable and terminal.

Noel feels that he is prevented from exercising his right to choice and control over his death under the current law. He fears that without a change in the law he may be forced to suffer against his wishes. Noel is bringing this case, supported by Dignity in Dying, to fight for his right to have the option of an assisted death when he is in his final six months of life.

The case was thrown out in October 2017 following a hearing at the High Court in July – however the judgment did confirm that the courts have the authority to make a declaration of incompatibility between the 1961 Suicide Act (which criminalised assisting someone to die) and human rights legislation.

On the 18th of January 2018, Noel was granted permission to appeal the High Court’s earlier decision. His case will now proceed to the Court of Appeal in the spring.