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Dignity in Dying comments on ‘think-tank’s’ criticisms of Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act

In a report we are told is out today, but doesn’t appear to be available to the public, a new ‘think-tank’ headed by assisted dying opponents Lord Carlisle and Baroness Finlay, has said that safeguards to limit assisted dying to terminally ill people will become meaningless.

On the report, James Harris, Head of Campaigns and Communications at Dignity in Dying, said:

“It is difficult to comment on a report that we haven’t seen. However, given that independent research has found the Oregon law to be working safely, that popular support for assisted dying for terminally ill, mentally competent adults has grown in Oregon, and that the neighbouring state of Washington introduced an identical assisted dying law by popular mandate, after monitoring the Oregon experience for ten years, it is unlikely that the report will highlight any fundamental flaws in the legislation.

“Dignity in Dying acknowledges that those with a principled objection to assisted dying regardless of the evidence will always try to find flaws with those jurisdictions that have legalised and regulated assisted dying. Although we recognise that we will never convince these opponents of the need for change, we welcome such attacks, because they will help us draft even better legislation with safeguards and criteria which are relevant to our culture and laws.

“In practice, our opponents support a British law which forgives compassionate amateur assistance to die, but not professional, and one which relies on an investigation and possible (but unlikely) prosecution after someone has died, to deter abuse. They have failed to explain how the current law better protects people than a law with up-front safeguards. Surely it is much better to fully consider a dying adult’s request to die when they are still alive and healthcare professionals can outline all of their options. The campaign to change the law on assisted dying is about choice, people should not have to suffer against their wishes in the final weeks or days of life, but it is also about better protecting people.

“We are encouraged by the efforts our opponents are going to, to undermine a change in the law with decision makers, which confirms our view that assisted dying legislation is on the horizon. Furthermore we look forward to learning more about Living and Dying Well, who have not published any contact details to date, and in particular, learning who they are and how the organisation is funded.”

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.
  • Dignity in Dying has over 25,000 supporters and receives its funding entirely from donations from the public.
  • The British Social Attitudes Survey 2010 found that 92% of non-religious and 71% of religious people support assisted dying. This relates to overall support of 82%.
  • The General Medical Council (GMC) defines terminal illness as: “patient’s … likely to die within the next 12 months. This includes patients whose death is imminent (expected within a few hours or days) and those with: A) advanced, progressive, incurable conditions. B) general frailty and co-existing conditions that mean they are expected to die within 12 months. C) existing conditions if they are at risk of dying from a sudden acute crisis in their condition. D) life-threatening acute conditions caused by catastrophic events.

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