The question of assisted dying has rarely been out of the media spotlight in recent years. Although the Assisted Dying for the Terminally Ill Bill was blocked by the House of Lords in 2006, a spate of TV dramas, documentary films, and high-profile cases have lead to renewed debate about introducing a change to the law to assist terminally ill people who request the ‘right to die’; including a new Assisted Dying Bill tabled before the House of Lords in May 2013.
Proponents of assisted dying aim to give people the ability to control their destiny. But many are also concerned that loosening the law would be a slippery slope leading to an increasing prevalence of assisted suicide, and would open the door to euthanasia. Others worry a change to the law would signal a cultural acceptance of suicide more generally. Critics, both secular and religious, oppose any new legislation. They emphasise the value of life and argue for a focus on prolonging life or on palliative care, suggesting that legalising assisted dying would irretrievably transform the relationship between doctors and patients. Advocates of assisted dying retort that legalisation would allow the practice to be publicly regulated and scrutinised.
Does the right to die at the time and manner that one wishes follow directly from the right to choose how one lives? Or should suicide always be discouraged? How does the concept of ‘dignity’ fit in to this discussion? And why has the assisted dying debate come to assume such cultural and political importance in recent years?
Guest Chair: Pauline Hadaway is a writer, researcher and co-founder of Liverpool Salon.