The Commission on Assisted Dying, launched in November 2010, was set up to consider whether the current legal and policy approach to assisted dying in England and Wales is ﬁt for purpose. In addition to evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of the legal status quo, the Commission also set out to explore the question of what a framework for assisted dying might look like, if such a system were to be implemented in the UK, and what approach might be most acceptable to health and social care professionals and to the general public.
The Commission, chaired by Lord Falconer, includes members with expertise in law, medicine, social care, mental health, palliative care, theology, disability and policing. The Commission engaged in a wide-ranging inquiry into the subject, including a public call for evidence which received over 1,200 responses, public evidence hearings, international research visits, and original and commissioned research on the issues surrounding assisted dying.
In this report, the Commission concludes that the current legal status of assisted suicide is inadequate and incoherent. While the current legal regime can be distressing for the people affected and their families, it is also unclear for health and social care staff, and lays a deeply challenging burden on police and prosecutors, which could be eased by a new statutory framework. A proposed legal framework for assisted dying is laid out in detail in the report, including strict criteria to deﬁne who might be eligible to receive assistance and robust safeguards to prevent abuse of any new law.
Based on the evidence received, the Commission considers that substantial improvements to health and social care services would be needed in parallel with changes to the law to permit assisted dying. It proposes that the role of any future assisted dying legislation must be to provide all people with access to high quality end of life care and protect potentially vulnerable people from any form of social pressure to end their lives, at the same time as providing people with greater choice and control regarding how and when they die.
To view the evidence submitted to the Commission, visit the Commission on Assisted Dying website.