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Assisted Dying: Protecting Those Who Want More Control at the End of Their Lives

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The Commission on Assisted Dying; a panel of experts ranging from doctors to lawyers, and disability campaigners to parliamentarians, have today published their findings following a 12 month consultation period. We are pleased that they have concluded with recommendations for a framework which would allow safe assisted dying for terminally ill, mentally competent adults.

Last month we saw news of an incredibly courageous terminally ill woman, Geraldine McCllelland, who was forced to travel abroad in order to have the death that she wanted. She called for cowardly politicians to engage - and given that the Commission has compiled an independent Report based on comprehensive evidence and safeguards, now would be an ideal opportunity for parliamentarians to start.

Dignity in Dying commissioned a poll a fortnight ago which found that a majority (61%) of the public would like parliament to debate the issue of Britons, like Geraldine, travelling abroad for help to die.

Just 12% of those asked were opposed to MPs and Peers debating this issue. Given the plethora of issues that people are concerned about, this polling shows just how concerned the public are about the status quo. Whenever the public are asked on the broader issue of whether they find the current situation acceptable; a situation which forces dying people who want help to end their suffering to travel abroad to for assistance to die, or attempt to end their lives behind closed doors - 80% say they would like to see the law change. (BSAS 2007 and 2010).

Opponents to a change in the law have criticised the Commission, and I have no doubt will continue to attack any efforts to find a solution to the unbearable suffering which continues daily in the absence of a compassionate assisted dying law, but they themselves do not suggest an alternative. Some of those who oppose change refused to give evidence to the Commission, but refusing to engage does not get us any closer to reducing the suffering of those who want more choice and control at the end of their lives.

We are confident that the evidence and safeguards in this report will reassure those with genuine concerns about the impact of an assisted dying law on society. An assisted dying law would better protect both those who do want more choice and control at the end of their lives, and crucially those who may be vulnerable and need to be safeguarded.

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