April 4, 2024

UK parliament report on ‘assisted dying’ refuses to take sides

A long-anticipated report from the British Parliament on “assisted dying” has not made any dramatic recommendations, to the dismay of supporters and relief of opponents.

The inquiry by the Health and Social Care Committee was meant to be “a basis for discussion” into whether the law should be changed. But it stopped short of calling for a House of Commons debate. 

Instead, it recommended that the government should consider how to respond if moves are made to bring assisted dying into law in parts of the UK. Although currently illegal in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland, crown dependencies, including Jersey and the Isle of Man, have taken steps towards legalising it.

The committee says that the government should ensure universal access to palliative care for the terminally ill, having heard evidence of “patchy” end-of-life provisions.

Opponents of a “right to die” criticised the report. Dr Gordon Macdonald, chief executive of Care Not Killing, said: “At a time when we have seen how fragile our health care system is, how underfunding puts pressure on services, accessing specific treatments and when the UK’s amazing hospice movement faces a £100 million funding crisis, MPs could have decided to firmly close the door on assisted suicide and euthanasia… ‘They failed.”

The inquiry received more than 68,000 responses from members of the public and more than 380 pieces of written evidence as a basis for the report.