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House of Lords considering PAD

In April, a 13-member Select Committee, which had been extensively examining Lord Joffe’s “Assisted Dying for the Terminally-ill” Bill, issued its report. Under this draft Bill, a terminally-ill patient could receive a lethal injection, if suicide by swallowing life-ending medication was impossible). This report is a solid body of work resulting from over 140 witness statements, including some from abroad, 60 written submissions and 14,000 letters/e-mails from individuals.

A substantial majority supported the concept that patients could be helped to end their lives, thus opening the door for legislation allowing this (where religious and conservative elements are strong) on the subject as soon as possible. It wanted voluntary euthanasia to be separated from assisted suicide, thinking that the latter might be more acceptable to British physicians. The Committee was unanimous in its view that the Bill should proceed and accepted that palliative care was unlikely to meet the needs of everyone.

There is a possibility now that a new Bill, modeled after the Oregon Death with Dignity Act, will be introduced by Lord Joffe later this year. Voluntary Euthanasia Society of England and Wales (VES) noted, in an internal Board report in March 2004, that Oregon “can demonstrate much more clearly than the Netherlands a structure which works well and which is very difficult to attack”. However, looking ahead, a VES spokesman last April, stated that a change in the law, in England and Wales, is unlikely for “10 or 15 years”.

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