Responding to the news about Guernsey taking forward proposals on assisted dying, Sarah Wootton, Chief Executive at Dignity in Dying, said:
“It shouldn’t be courageous to take a decision that is popular, compassionate, safe and sensible but the people of Guernsey are bravely taking a step towards legalising assisted dying.
“In 2015, MPs in the UK decided to ignore the wishes of their constituents and listen to scaremongers, whose arguments are repeatedly proved wrong as more and more countries decide to give dying people a say over how and when they die.
“From California to Canada, Vermont to Victoria, politicians have decided to listen to the wishes of dying people and given them a say over how and when they die. What we’ve seen there has been remarkable: choice for dying people, protection for vulnerable people, honest and open conversations between doctors and their patients.
“In spring Noel Conway is going to continue his legal battle, asking the British courts to decide whether his human rights are undermined by having a blanket ban on assisted dying in this country. Like so many dying people he wants to know that, if his suffering becomes unbearable in his last days and weeks of life, he can choose to die on his own terms.
“We should applaud the people of Guernsey for beginning this discussion and must hope that their positive, progressive example is followed here.”
Notes to Editor
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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.
For more information, visit www.dignityindying.org.uk
Dignity in Dying is currently supporting the case of Noel Conway, 68, from Shrewsbury, who has brought a judicial review challenging the current law which bans assisted dying in the UK. Noel was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a form of motor neurone disease, in November 2014. His condition is incurable and terminal.
Noel feels that he is prevented from exercising his right to choice and control over his death under the current law. He fears that without a change in the law he may be forced to suffer against his wishes. Noel is bringing this case, supported by Dignity in Dying, to fight for his right to have the option of an assisted death when he is in his final six months of life.
The case was thrown out in October 2017 following a hearing at the High Court in July – however the judgment did confirm that the courts have the authority to make a declaration of incompatibility between the 1961 Suicide Act (which criminalised assisting someone to die) and human rights legislation.
On the 18th of January 2018, Noel was granted permission to appeal the High Court’s earlier decision. His case will now proceed to the Court of Appeal in the spring.