Intended for healthcare professionals

Observations On the Contrary

Half truths and one and a half truths about assisted dying

BMJ 2010; 341 doi: (Published 22 December 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;341:c7282
  1. Tony Delamothe, deputy editor, BMJ
  1. tdelamothe{at}

Given all the misinformation flying about, the new Commission on Assisted Dying has got its work cut out

Sixteen months ago I argued that the debate on assisted dying had been hijacked by disabled people who wanted to live and that it should be reclaimed for terminally ill people who wanted to die (BMJ 2009;339:b3446, doi:10.1136/bmj.b3446).

Since then the debate in Britain has moved on. The director of public prosecutions for England and Wales, Keir Starmer, clarified his criteria for prosecuting those who help others to commit suicide. Healthcare Professionals for Change (now called Healthcare Professionals for Assisted Dying) was set up, with the explicit aim of challenging the current law. Two fervent opponents of any change in the law launched Living and Dying Well, a public policy think tank to promote “rational, evidence-based and measured debate” on the subject. Scottish MPs threw out the End of Life Assistance (Scotland) Bill. And an independent Commission on Assisted Dying began considering the evidence for changing the current law.

In between keeping up with these developments I attended lectures and debates in venues as varied as St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle and the …

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