Sunday of Liberal Democrat conference will provide an opportunity for delegates to reaffirm their support for a change in the law on assisted dying, says Dignity in Dying.
The party conference season provides an important opportunity for Dignity in Dying to take the debate on assisted dying directly to parliamentarians, political activists and stakeholders. At our fringe events this year we will be discussing "Patient choice & public safety: can we have both at the end of life?”
As the health ministers’ Anna Soubry and Norman Lamb recent comments show, there has been no let-up in the debate on whether the law should change to allow assisted dying within upfront safeguards. Opinion polls indicate that a clear majority of the public support an assisted dying law, however to date a majority of Parliamentarians have resisted change. The debate hinges on a key issue: patient safety. Opponents of assisted dying claim that a change in the law would put vulnerable people at risk whereas Dignity in Dying and other advocates of change argue that a law with upfront safeguards would better protect people. At this year’s fringe meetings we will ask whether a safeguarded law can provide better protection than the status quo and, if so, what safeguards are paramount.
These timely debates build on the recommendations of the Commission on Assisted Dying and coincide with the consultation on a draft assisted dying Bill published by Dignity in Dying in partnership with the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Choice at the End of Life. This draft Bill would allow a dying, mentally competent adult to request an assisted death, subject to verification of prognosis and capacity by two doctors. The consultation closes on 20th November, and a Bill is to be tabled in the House of Lords next year. We hope that the consultation will enable us to produce a robust and comprehensive Bill that has been destruction-tested before it reaches Parliament. The question and comments raised at our fringe meetings this year will build into that process.
Crucially the debate on assisted dying is not just confined to fringe meetings this year. A motion on the Sunday of Liberal Democrat conference will provide further opportunity for debate and provides Liberal Democrat delegates with an opportunity to reaffirm their support for a change in the law. We would of course welcome the Labour Party and the Conservative Party following suit but hopefully by this time next year an assisted dying law will already be well on its way to the statute book.