Assisted dying inquiry excludes UK doctors, nurses and those wanting an assisted death

The assisted dying inquiry, currently run by the Health and Social Care Committee, has announced its last evidence session will be with UK palliative care organisations. That means it will not have public oral evidence sessions with doctors outside of those in palliative care – the medical profession most dominated by religious interests and most likely to oppose a change in the law. Nor will it hear in this way from those who want an assisted death, from their loved ones, from nurses, from social workers, or from disabled people. Humanists UK is concerned that the exclusion of these groups will affect this vital report.

While these groups have had the chance to submit written evidence and some have been able to take part in an anonymised roundtable with the MPs on the Committee, they have been omitted from public oral evidence sessions.

One of the biggest changes since the 2015 House of Commons vote to uphold the ban on assisted dying is that the British Medical Association and all bar one Royal College have changed their position to one of neutrality. A survey by the Royal College of Surgeons recently revealed that six in ten surgeons personally support assisted dying. The British Medical Association dropped its opposition to assisted dying in 2021, after 59% of doctors said they believe adults with physical conditions causing intolerable suffering should be allowed help to die.

The next session will include two palliative care doctors – Dr Paul Perkins, Chief Medical Director at Sue Ryder, and Dr Matthew Doré, Honorary Secretary at the Association for Palliative Medicine. In 2019, Doré signed an open letter opposing abortion in Northern Ireland, with the letter claiming: ‘It is the firmly held belief of many Christians in Northern Ireland that abortion is the unjust taking of human life – a violent act performed against creatures who are made in God’s image, in which He delights, and which therefore must be resisted by all lawful means.’ Doré has publicly opposed assisted dying in the past.

Humanists UK previously revealed that the Committee is considerably more religious than the public. Ten of the eleven members swore a Christian oath upon entering Parliament. Four have voted against assisted dying in the past and at least three of the members of the Committee have also voted against abortion rights, a stark contrast to the 86% of the public who support women’s right to an abortion.

The Committee has said the inquiry’s report is likely to be published before the end of the year.

Humanists UK Assisted Dying Campaigner Nathan Stilwell said:

‘It’s appalling that the Health and Social Care committee will exclude so many key constituents from giving public oral evidence. Doctors, nurses, social care workers, and those who want an assisted death all have a tremendous amount of evidence to give. It is not only professionals involved in palliative care that will be involved in end-of-life care. We are deeply concerned about what this may mean for this inquiry.

‘Everyone should have the right to live their lives by their own personal values – this includes making decisions about our own deaths. Legalising assisted dying give individuals more dignity, more autonomy, and more choice, a fundamental staple of a good society.’