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New health minister supports right to die as BHA applies to intervene in Nicklinson case

New Under-Secretary of State for Health Anna Soubry has announced her support for people having a right to die in their home, while new Minister of State for Care Services Norman Lamb has also said that reform should be looked at.

The news comes as the British Humanist Association (BHA) has announced that it is applying to intervene in an appeal to Tony Nicklinson’s right-to-die case, and a day after the BHA released the results of a new survey showing 81% of adults support a change in the law. The BHA has welcomed Anna Soubry and Norman Lamb’s comments.

Ms Soubry, Conservative MP for Broxtowe, said in an interview in The Times: ‘I think it’s ridiculous and appalling that people have to go abroad to end their life instead of being able to end their life at home. You can’t say to a doctor or a nurse, “Kill this person” but ... you have a right to kill yourself. The rules that we have about who we don’t prosecute allow things to happen but there’s a good argument that we should be a bit more honest about it.’

Responding to Ms Soubry, Mr Lamb, who is responsible for care services, mental health and disabilities, has said that there is a case ‘for looking at reform’. The Liberal Democrat MP for North Norfolk told the BBC, ‘This is an individual decision of conscience – there's not a Government policy on it. But I certainly think that we should debate it, the positives and negatives, about reform but I certainly, personally, think there is a case for looking at this.’

Meanwhile, Jane Nicklinson, widow of Tony, has announced that she intends to appeal the recent High Court ruling against his having the right to die. The BHA has applied to intervene in this appeal.

Welcoming Ms Soubry and Mr Lamb’s comments, BHA Chief Executive Andrew Copson commented, ‘The inconsistency in the law highlighted by Anna Soubry unnecessarily extends the suffering of terminally ill and incurable individuals who are mentally competent yet wish to end their lives in as quick and pain-free a manner as possible. We would like the law to go slightly further than Ms Soubry’s comments might be construed to suggest, in allowing such individuals to receive some form of professional medical assistance in ending their life. However, these comments represent a significant and positive step. Public opinion is overwhelmingly supportive of a change in the law, and it is time Parliament starts to listen.’

The research released yesterday, conducted by YouGov, found that 81% of the British public supported mentally competent individuals with incurable or terminal diseases who wish to end their lives receiving medical assistance to do so, without those assisting them facing prosecution. Just 12% opposed this.

Notes

For further comment or information contact BHA Chief Executive Andrew Copson on 07534 258596 or at andrew@humanism.org.uk.

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.  The total sample size was 2061 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 31th August - 3rd September 2012.  The survey was carried out online.  The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).

View the results of the survey, also showing 82% of Anglicans and 66% of Roman Catholics supporting a change in the law: http://www.humanism.org.uk/_uploads/documents/yougov-assisted-dying-survey-03.09.12.xls

Read Anna Soubry’s interview in The Times: http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/news/politics/article3531956.ece

Read Norman Lamb’s comments: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-19527769

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

The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of ethically concerned, non-religious people in the UK. It is the largest organisation in the UK campaigning for an end to religious privilege and to discrimination based on religion or belief, and for a secular state.

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