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
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
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).