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Britons make up one in five visitors to assisted dying clinics

Sarah Wootton, Chief Executive of Dignity in Dying:

It’s important to note that the marked rise in people travelling abroad to Switzerland to die has come from other European countries such as Italy and France; the rates from Britain have actually fluctuated year by year. Nevertheless, with Britons forming the second largest group of European residents travelling abroad to Switzerland to die – at a rate of about one per fortnight – it does reinforce that there is a problem with the law in this country.

It’s clearly unethical to force dying Britons to travel abroad to die through a lack of safeguarded choice in this country. But there is also a patient safety issue. We have no control over the law in Switzerland, but we can and should regulate and safeguard assisted dying in this country. Lord Falconer’s Assisted Dying Bill, which passed its Second Reading in the House of Lords last month and will go on to Committee Stage later in the year, would allow dying Britons to have the choice of an assisted death, whilst also providing greater protection.

The Supreme Court indicated that Parliament should look carefully at the law in this area. The President of the Court said that upfront safeguards would provide better protection for people than the current system whereby a person’s reasons for wanting to end their life, and the motivations of anyone who assists them are investigated after they have died. We should also be aware that people choosing to go to Switzerland for assistance to die is one signal that the law is not working here in the UK, but there are several others. Many more dying people end their lives themselves at home in the UK, and others receive illegal assistance to die from their doctors with no safeguards or transparency.


Media Contacts:

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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. Dignity in Dying has over 25,000 supporters and receives its funding entirely from donations from the public.