Is there a better political way forward?

Former lord chancellor Lord Falconer is launching an assisted dying inquiry

If faulty reasoning is introduced into a court of law, it can be challenged and appealed. If faulty logic is used in science, peers will expose it. No-one expects MPs to take a democratic vote on how to do a heart transplant. Yet that very sort of flawed thinking is often prevalent when examining moral issues. Do we ask how to find a system that will involve maximising respect for autonomy? For minimising harm? Or do MPs just vote with their ‘conscience’ – which often means, ‘according to the effectiveness of the campaigns.’

A recent bill on assisted dying was debated in Scotland with its unique system for gathering evidence – yet overturned by hardliner politicians who ‘weren’t convinced.’ Surely there must be a better way of arriving at fair and just laws, based on evidence rather than opinion and belief.

Lord Falconer is heading up an inquiry that will be “objective and dispassionate,” he said. The Commission on Assisted Dying, whose members also include the former Metropolitan police commissioner Lord Blair, will consider what system, if any, should exist to allow people to be helped to die and whether changes in the law should be introduced.

It is funded by Terry Pratchett, the author and passionate euthanasia supporter who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease, and businessman Bernard Lewis. Falconer insisted: “We will evaluate all the evidence we hear on a fair basis – judge us at the end by the quality of our report.” He added: “We approach the task, each one of us, determined to come up with a report of quality which will be respected as an objective, dispassionate and authoritative analysis of the issues, and as providing a reliable way forward. The issue is one of great ethical and practical importance.”

The commission, which will review evidence from experts and the public, is expected to publish its findings in a year. The think tank Demos will act as its secretariat, providing administrative and research support.

See the official website of the new Commission on Assisted Dying
Story in the Guardian newspaper
Launch by the Demos group
Read the BBC News story
Read a Parliamentary Briefing Paper on assisted suicide
See Lord Falconer’s earlier attempt to amend the law

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