Leamington man’s call for change of law on assisted dying

Peter Squires and his mother Glenys.
Peter Squires and his mother Glenys.

Current laws prohibiting terminally ill people in the UK choosing to ask for medical assistance to die must be changed by Parliament, a Leamington man has said.

As part of Dignity in Dying’s sub-campaign ‘Yes until the End’ Peter Squires, who was at his 67-year-old mother Glenys’ bedside when she underwent an assisted death at the Dignitas organisation in Switzerland two years ago, will be demonstrating at Westminster when Lord Falconer’s Assisted Dying Bill has its second reading and is subsequently debated at the House of Lords on July 18.

Campaigners say that if enacted the bill would result in fewer dying adults and their families facing unnecessary suffering, allow mentally competent adults who are terminally ill to request life-ending medication from a doctor which they would self administer at a time of their choosing, bring clarity to the law, protect those who are vulnerable and do not have a terminal illness and protect against assisted suicide for those who are not dying.

It will not legalise voluntary or non-voluntary euthanasia

A 2013 YouGov survey found that 73 per cent of those asked were in support of the assisted dying bill and only 13 per cent were opposed to it while a British Social Attitudes survey in 2010 found that 82 per cent of the public agreed that doctors should be allowed to end the life of a patient with a painful incurable disease at the patient’s request.

Mr Squires said: “It is real progress that Parliament is considering this and it is time for members to reflect on the widespread public support for a change in the law.

“The key is that at least three quarters of the public supports this. The courts have repeatedly said they can’t do anything under the current law so Parliament needs to make the change.”

Current UK law prohibits medical assistance to help somebody to die, with the punishment being a prison sentence of up to 14 years.

But Mr Squires has said ‘amateur compassionate assistance’ - accompanying somebody abroad who has chosen to die for example - has effectively been decriminalised and does not have significant safeguards against personal abuses or protection for relatives who could face prosecution after the death.

The website www.yesuntiltheend.co.uk includes a hard hitting video to accompany the campaign and also a link for people to email party leaders to show their support.

In the three weeks since its launch, the campaign has generated more than 17,000 emails. www.dignityindying.org.uk