On Tuesday April 27, Secretary of State for Health, Matt Hancock, called on the Office for National Statistics (ONS) to publish any relevant data regarding the impact on terminally ill people of the blanket ban on assisted dying. Matt Hancock: “It’s an important subject, and a sensitive one and I think that the data should underpin a high quality debate.”
Tuesday’s meeting saw more than 100 MPs and Peers gather together to hear the Health Secretary’s thoughts on the issues. The Health Secretary said he had written to the ONS asking for more data and noted that “anyone who believes in high quality public discourse would want to see an independent and impartial set of facts on which we can then have a discussion.” Mr Hancock added that as Health Secretary he has “a role in ensuring that the discussion and debate are as high quality as possible.” The meeting also contained a personal testimony from Barbara Wall whose 93 year old father tragically took his own life in 2016 after struggling with terminal oesophageal cancer. The meeting was chaired by Andrew Mitchell MP who covered a range of issues with the Health Secretary.
Dignity in Dying
According to RTD Society Dignity in Dying, there were clear shifts in the tone of the discussion that show a more explicit commitment to assisted dying as an issue that will soon return to Parliament:
- The Secretary of State recognised the “unfairnesses” of the status quo and showed an interest in moving the conversation on from abstract discussion. He was clear in his admiration for the dying people who have given their final weeks to fight for this choice and called for a detailed, evidence-based debate, grounded in the experiences of dying people and their families.
- It was clear that Matt Hancock understood assisted dying as a logical implication of a health system moving consistently in the direction of individual choice.
- He recognised the contribution of Dignity in Dying to the debate and applauded our honesty and commitment.
Read the press release of Dignity in Dying:
Cross-party group on end-of-life choice welcomes Health Secretary’s request for more data on suicides by terminally ill people and impact of assisted dying ban – Dignity in Dying