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More support for Falconer's Assisted Dying Bill

02 January 2015


Fought the law: the campaigner Debbie Purdy, outside the High Court in 2008 with her husband, Omar Puente. She died on Tuesday aged 51, after suffering from a progressive form of multiple sclerosis 

Fought the law: the campaigner Debbie Purdy, outside the High Court in 2008 with her husband, Omar Puente. She died on Tuesday ...

THE former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey, is among 84 signatories to a letter of support for Lord Falconer's Assisted Dying Bill, published on Monday, writes Madeleine Davies.

The Bill is currently in Committee Stage in the House of Lords. In November, peers voted in favour of an amendment setting out a model for judicial oversight: a High Court judge would have to confirm that a terminally ill patient, with less than six months to live, had reached a "voluntary, clear, settled, and informed" decision to end his or her life. Scrutiny in the Lords will continue on 16 January, but it will not be possible for the Bill to pass through the legislative stages in the House of Commons before the General Election.

The letter, published in The Daily Telegraph, calls on the next government to ensure that there is enough time for Parliament to "reach consensus" on the law.

It states that one British person a fortnight ends his or her life in the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland, while for each person who travels abroad, ten terminally ill people take their own lives in this country. It also says that"Most people in Britain support law change on assisted dying."

Signatories include several peers and MPs, clinicians, novelists (Julian Barnes, Ian McEwan), comedians (Jo Brand, Eric Idle), and actors (Hugh Grant, Sir Patrick Stewart).

Canon Rosie Harper, Chaplain to the Bishop of Buckingham, another signatory, said on Monday: "At a local level people's experience of the death of the people they love, along with the fear of the manner of their own death, leads them to an understanding that the love and compassion at the heart of their faith makes some allowance for assisted dying the ethical and Christian choice."

On Monday, it was reported that Debbie Purdy, a prominent campaigner for assisted dying, had died on 23 December. She had lived with primary progressive multiple sclerosis for almost 20 years, and spent the past year in a hospice in Bradford. In 2009, she won a ruling that the Director of Public Prosecutions should make clear the grounds on which whose who helped others to end their lives would be prosecuted (News, 7 August, 2009).

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