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First vote on assisted dying in House of Lords since 2006 shows clear majority of peers now supporting change

60% of peers reject wrecking amendment

Today saw a significant victory for the assisted dying campaign in the House of Lords as nearly two thirds of peers voted in favour of a change in the law.

Lord Falconer’s Assisted Dying Bill returned for its second day of Committee Stage with opponents looking to change the name of the Bill and the terminology used within it as a means of showing discontent with the basic proposition.

The Bill allows the option of assisted dying for terminally ill, mentally competent people – something that is very different from the ‘assisted suicide’ language proposed by some peers. As was made clear in the debate, terminally ill, mentally competent people are not suicidal – they are looking to have some control over the time and manner of an inevitable and unavoidable death. When the Bill’s opponents moved the amendment it was comprehensively defeated 106 – 179.

In a further blow to opponents, Lord Carlile’s attempt to restrict doctors who could consult with a patient and put further barriers in the way for terminally ill people was defeated 61-119.

Previously on the first day of Committee peers had unanimously supported an amendment to introduce judicial oversight tabled by long-standing supporter Lord Pannick QC with Lord Falconer’s backing.

Sarah Wootton, Chief Executive of Dignity in Dying, said:

“Today’s historic vote shows there is now parliamentary support for a change in the law to give terminally ill people greater choice and control over the dying process. A vote that will give huge comfort to those who are at present forced to suffer against their wishes at the end of life.
“Lord Falconer’s Assisted Dying Bill has now progressed further than any legislation on this issue before it, receiving the support of nearly two thirds of peers. We are now debating how, not if, we change the law on assisted dying for the terminally ill.
“This reflects the fact that most members of the House of Lords are now in agreement with the overwhelming majority of the public that the current law is unsustainable and cruel to those dying people suffering against their wishes at the end of life. When peers debated Lord Joffe’s Bill in 2006 59% of the House of Lords opposed that Bill. Today, Lord Falconer’s Bill received the support of 60% of the House of Lords.
“It is critical that the Bill be allowed more time to progress after another significant step forward in today’s proceedings. We are now moving towards agreement on the detail of the safeguards, so that a workable Bill can be considered by the House of Commons.
“The clear and settled will of the public that the law needs to change is consistently evidenced by opinion polls. The courts have repeatedly prompted parliament to act. We will continue to press for progress in this Parliament and if necessary, in the next. Opponents of the Bill recognise that change is coming and should now stop stifling the attempts of Parliament to act.”