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New Bill presented to the British House of Lords

January 15th 2004, a new Assisted Dying Bill was introduced to the British House of Lords by Lord Joffe, a retired human rights lawyer, and a member of the Voluntary Euthanasia Society of England and Wales.

In 2003, Lord Joffe had presented a Patient (Assisted Dying) Bill which was for individuals who were “suffering unbearably as a result of a terminal or a serious and progressive physical illness” – this was discussed extensively in the House of Lords in June, but a final vote was not taken.

The new Assisted Dying for the Terminally Ill Bill will only permit euthanasia for terminally-ill patients. And, where such patients are able to self-administer lethal drugs, physicians must only provide the means for them to do so: doctors will only be able to administer a lethal injection if the patient is unable to commit suicide. The new Bill also states that one of the physicians consulted by the terminally-ill patient must be a palliative care specialist, whereas the 2003 draft Bill simply required two doctors.

This new Assisted Dying for the Terminally Ill Bill is expected to be discussed in the House of Lords within the next few months. Then, it is likely that a Select Committee will be established to examine all aspects of Lord Joffe’s Bill in detail, to receive statements from many interested groups in England and Wales, and to investigate the experience of similar legislation in other areas of the world, before making its own recommendations – this process is likely to take at least two years.