Skip to content

Dignity in Dying comment on on Sir Edward and Lady Downes being assisted to die abroad

On the case of Sir Edward Downes and his wife Lady Joan Downes being assisted to die at Dignitas in Switzerland on Friday 10th July

Sarah Wootton, Chief Executive of Dignity in Dying said:

“Sir Edward Downes and Lady Joan Downes add their names to the ever growing list of Britons who have travelled abroad to die.

“This problem is clearly not going to go away; we are descending down a slippery slope towards unregulated assisted dying abroad, at a rapid pace. This emphasises the need for the safeguards that Lord Falconer was calling for in his amendment to the Coroners and Justice Bill last Tuesday. Opponents of the amendment, which was eventually defeated by 194 votes to 141, said that it would turn the traffic lights on assisted dying from red to green. The light is already green, and what is needed is urgent action to safeguard the practice in this country. The amendment clearly does not relax the law; it sets out to regulate the law.

“Dignity in Dying believes that, within safeguards to prevent abuse, people should be able to make such decisions for themselves, but safeguards are the key and without them, as is the situation at present, the process is dangerous and open to abuse.”


Notes to editors:

Sarah Wootton will be at Milbank studios, available for comment today between 12.30 and 1.30. Please call to arrange an interview. 020 7479 7737 / 07725433025

Amendment tabled by the Rt Hon the Lord Falconer:

Insert the following new Clause:
“Acts not capable of encouraging or assisting suicide
(1) An act by an individual (“D”) is not to be treated as capable of encouraging or assisting the suicide or attempted suicide of another adult (“T”) if:
(a) the act is done solely or principally for the purpose of enabling or assisting T to travel to a country or territory in which assisted dying is lawful;
(b) prior to the act, two registered medical practitioners, independent of each other, have certified that they are of the opinion in good faith that T is terminally ill and has the capacity to make the declaration under subsection (2); and
(c) prior to the act, T has made a declaration under subsection (2).
(2) A declaration by T is made under this subsection if the declaration?
(a) is made freely in writing and is signed by T (or is otherwise recorded and authenticated if T is incapable of signing it),
(b) states that T?
(i) has read or been informed of the contents of the certificates under subsection (1)(b), and
(ii) has decided to travel to a country or territory falling within subsection (1)(a) for the purpose of obtaining assistance in dying, and
(c) is witnessed by an independent witness chosen by T.
(3) “Independent witness” means a person who is not?
(a) likely to obtain any benefit from the death of T; or
(b) a close relative or friend of T; or
(c) involved in caring for T.
(4) D is not to be treated as having done an act capable of encouraging or assisting the suicide or attempted suicide of T by virtue of being with T when, in a country or territory falling within subsection (1)(a), T takes steps (including steps taken with the assistance of D) to commit suicide by lawful means.”
Co-signed by:

The Rt Hon the Baroness Jay of Paddington
The Lord Lester QC
The Lord Low

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 100,000 supporters and receives its funding entirely from donations from the public.

Surveys consistently show that at least 80% of the UK population supports a change in the law on assisted dying.

Media Contacts:
For all media enquiries, please contact Jo Cartwright on 020 7479 7737 / 07725433025 or at