Opinion Former Article

BHA: MPs' support for assisted dying guidance 'a welcome first step'

Assisted dying was debated in the House of Commons yesterday, the first major debate on the issue since 1997. After almost five hours, MPs agreed without a vote to endorse the Director of Public Prosecutions’ (DPPs’) guidelines on when to prosecute individuals for assisting another to die. However, a further motion, which would have invited the government to consult as to whether to put the guidance on a statutory basis, was not supported.

The British Humanist Association (BHA) has welcomed the vote as a welcome first step, but supports the legalisation of assisted dying, and therefore believes things need to go further.

BHA Head of Public Affairs Pavan Dhaliwal commented, ‘It is welcome that the Commons has now endorsed the DPPs’ guidelines, which is of historic significance and given the overwhelming public support, has been a long time coming. However, it is disappointing that they would not consider putting them on statute, meaning that a court could still decide to go against them. And the guidelines themselves do not go far enough, in that they do not create a process through which individuals can be assisted to die, but are instead applied retrospectively on a case-by-case basis. There is therefore still a very strong risk for anyone who assists a death.

‘As Humanists, we believe that individuals should have the freedom to make their own decisions about their life, including about how to end it – so long as those decisions do not harm others. We believe that terminally ill and incurably suffering people should be able to choose to die with dignity, instead of continuing with that suffering.’


For further comment or information contact Pavan Dhaliwal, Head of Public Affairs at pavan@humanism.org.uk or on 0773 843 5059.

Read and watch the House of Commons debate on assisted suicide: http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/backbench-business-committee/news/debate-on-assisted-suicide/

Read the DPP's prosecution policy and guidance on assisted dying: http://www.cps.gov.uk/publications/prosecution/assisted_suicide.html

Read more about the BHA’s work on reforming the law on assisted dying: http://www.humanism.org.uk/campaigns/ethical-issues/assisted-dying

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