Skip to content

Voluntary Euthanasia Society changes name after 70 years to become Dignity in Dying (23 Jan)

23 January 2006

Voluntary Euthanasia Society changes name after 70 years to become Dignity in Dying – your life, your choice

Religious leaders and celebrities among its patrons

Britain’s leading advocate of patient choice in end of life medical decisions, the Voluntary Euthanasia Society, today changed its name to ‘Dignity in Dying’. Its strap line becomes, ‘your life, your choice’. The change comes 71 years after VES was set up in 1935.

Dignity in Dying turned its back on using expensive branding consultants when it learned this could cost it around £100,000. Members sent in around 200 suggestions, which a group of staff and members reduced to two: ‘Choice in Dying’ and ‘Dignity in Dying’. 65 per cent of the public preferred Dignity in Dying. At the Society’s recent AGM, 94% of the members who voted favoured the new name.

Deborah Annetts, Chief Executive of Dignity in Dying, said,

“Some major rebranding exercises have been unsuccessful and we felt we had a closer intuitive understanding of this issue than anybody else. We are funded by voluntary donations and it would not be a good use of members’ money to spend it this way.

“Our vision is that everyone should have the right to die with dignity. This vision is shared by people of all faiths, ages and equally for men and women. We get so many calls from terminally ill people saying, ‘please just let me die with dignity’ and we are committed to making this a reality. The new name will help us to campaign on all end of life medical treatment issues, not just assisted dying.”

Dignity in Dying also takes thousands of calls from the public about Living Wills, pain relief, , decisions to withhold or withdraw treatment, the law of suicide, and mercy killing. It was very involved with the Mental Capacity Act which becomes law next year and in March will be responding to the review of the law of murder. Dignity in Dying will issue its first report, focussing on how doctors use pain relief, by early February.

Deborah Annetts added,

“Initially we excluded the word dying from our choices because we were not sure how people would feel about it. But the expression “dying with dignity” kept coming back to us from every direction. We decided to look at this again and let the public guide us on this.”

The new name has been received especially well by MPs and members of the House of Lords who feel the name better describes what we do. Former Director General of Age Concern, Baroness Sally Greengross, said,

“The word ‘dignity’ emphasises, for me, that the dying person’s wishes must be paramount.”

Conservative MP for Reigate, Crispin Blunt said,

“Dignity in dying is a name that represents what this is all about – humanity and compassion as well as dignity.”

Dignity in Dying has also announced its new patrons today. They are: actress Zoe Wanamaker CBE, Sir Jonathan Miller, author Michael Holroyd CBE, acclaimed scientist Baroness Susan Greenfield, Brian Pretty, the widower of Diane Pretty who fought to change the law in the European Court of Human Rights and died of motor neurone disease in 2002, Rabbi Charles Middleburgh and Reverend Professor Paul Badham, a leading theologian.

Deborah Annetts said,

“Our two religious patrons connect us with our roots because we were set up by Churchmen and today we have more than 30 ministers who are members. This is an issue about compassion and changing an inhumane law which tortures dying people. It is not surprising that we have such religious support.”