We represent a diverse range of perspectives from across British society, including those who have accompanied loved ones abroad for an assisted death. We all agree that the right to choose how we die is a fundamental human right, and that those who are either terminally ill or facing incurable suffering should have the option of a peaceful, painless, and dignified death.
It is 10 years since Debbie Purdy’s successful legal case, requiring the director of public prosecutions to clarify when a person who accompanies a loved one to Switzerland can expect to face prosecution under the Suicide Act 1961. At the time, only two people a month travelled from the UK to Switzerland to end their life. Research from the UK’s Assisted Dying Coalition reveals that now more than one person a week makes that journey.
In light of those growing numbers, and of their friends and families grappling with the heart-wrenching decision between either letting their loved ones suffer or accompanying them and risking prosecution, we urge that action be taken to change the law.
In the years since the judgment in Debbie Purdy’s case, new evidence has emerged from progressive countries, including Canada, that robust safeguards can be achieved while protecting autonomy. Prominent medical opinion has shifted and an overwhelming 88% of the public have said they favour assisted dying for those who are incurably suffering, in at least some situations.
Parliament has yet to consider legislation that would have allowed the late Debbie Purdy and Tony Nicklinson the right to control the manner and timing of their deaths. Paul Lamb and Phil Newby are now taking up the baton.
Ten years ago Debbie Purdy took the first steps in our country’s journey towards a compassionate change in the law, many cannot wait any longer. The time for the law to change is now.
Dr Julian Baggini
Sir Iain Chalmers
Prof AC Grayling
Dr Phil Hammond
Rev Canon Rosie Harper
Dr Michael Irwin
Prof Emily Jackson
Dr Henry Marsh
Rev Scott McKenna
Prof David Nutt
Lord Martin Rees
Prof Wendy Savage
• Join the debate – email email@example.com
• Read more Guardian letters – click here to visit gu.com/letters
• Do you have a photo you’d like to share with Guardian readers? Click here to upload it and we’ll publish the best submissions in the letters spread of our print edition