Labour peer tables Bill in bid to make assisted dying legal

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A FORMER Lord Chancellor has introduced a Bill to Parliament that seeks to legalise assisted dying in a bid to “safeguard patients”.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton’s Bill would make it legal for terminally ill adults with less than six months to live to be helped to kill themselves.

The Labour peer, who chaired the Commission on Assisted Dying which reported earlier this year, presented his Bill for a formal first reading in the House of Lords yesterday.

Under the Bill, the person choosing an assisted death would have to be able to take the final action to end their life by ingesting life-ending medication.

It would not legalise euthanasia by doctors administering the fatal dose.

Lord Falconer said: “The public are currently ahead of politicians on this issue.

“The current law which forces some terminally ill people to travel abroad to die or attempt suicide behind closed doors is not fit for purpose. This new law will safeguard patients, protect family members and ensure that the medical profession can be involved.

“Furthermore, strictly limited to terminally ill, mentally competent adults, the Bill will not result in more people dying, but in fewer people suffering.”

Campaign group Dignity in Dying said the Bill would provide “upfront safeguards” and ensure that terminally ill adults had “explored all their alternatives” before ending their lives.

The group said it hopes the Bill will “address the suffering some dying people are facing through a lack of safeguarded choice”.

Sarah Wootton, chief executive of Dignity in Dying, said: “The experience in jurisdictions which have legalised and regulated some form of assistance to die shows that, in reality, safeguarded assisted dying laws provide transparency in end-of-life decision- making and provide both greater choice and protection.”

The Bill is expected to have its first debate in the autumn but stands little chance of becoming law.

In a separate move, campaigner Paul Lamb, of Bramley, Leeds, has brought a Court of Appeal challenge to a legal ruling against assisted death.

The Ministry of Justice, which is opposing him, argues it is for Parliament to decide if the law should be changed.

Mr Lamb was left paralysed after a road accident in 1990. He wants a doctor to help him die in a dignified way if he chooses.