Skip to content

Dignity in Dying to give evidence to Commission on Assisted Dying

The existing law fails terminally ill adults; assisted dying law would better protect vulnerable people

Sarah Wootton, Chief Executive of Dignity in Dying, and Davina Hehir, Head of Legal Strategy and Policy will give evidence to the Commission on Assisted Dying tomorrow. Others giving evidence in tomorrow’s session; the ethical considerations posed by assisted dying include Lady Mary Warnock, and Lady Onora O’Neill.

Sarah Wootton said:

“I am delighted to have the opportunity to put the views of Dignity in Dying, and of our members to the Commission on Assisted Dying. Dignity in Dying believes that the current law is failing terminally ill, mentally competent adults who want to have control over the time and manner of their deaths. This failure forces patients to take dangerous decisions such as travelling abroad to die, often alone, or attempting suicide behind closed doors.

“The 1961 Suicide Act is no longer fit for purpose. Debbie Purdy’s legal case last year highlighted that cases of compassionate amateur assistance to die are unlikely to be prosecuted. An assisted dying law with upfront safeguards would protect people better than the existing outdated law which is not being enforced.

“Patients and the public want choice at the end of life. Despite the current law people are being assisted to end their lives without upfront safeguards or any transparency on how these decisions are made. Assisted dying legislation would remove a duty to suffer without imposing a duty to die, and would improve patient safety.”


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%.

About the Commission on Assisted Dying:

The Commission on Assisted Dying shall:

  • Investigate the circumstances under which it should be possible for people to be assisted to die
  • Recommend what system, if any, should exist to allow people to be assisted to die
  • Identify who should be entitled to be assisted to die
  • Determine what safeguards should be put in place to ensure that vulnerable people are neither abused nor pressured to choose an assisted death
  • Recommend what changes in the law, if any, should be introduced

The Commission on Assisted Dying will proceed in its investigation through a variety of means including hearing evidence, consulting experts and studying practices in other countries. As far as possible the commission will publish any evidence or expert material it receives. The commission’s conclusions will be based solely upon the evidence it receives.

The Commission on Assisted Dying will run over a period of approximately 12 months. It will culminate in the publication of an independent report based on the evidence that it has collected before the end of 2011.

Media Contacts:

For all Dignity in Dying media enquiries, please contact Jo Cartwright on 020 7479 7737 / 07725433025 or at