Achieving the right to die

Sunday February 17th 2019

At Daniel Hall, Long Garden Walk, Farnham, GU9 7HX

Talk by Richy Thompson – after brief AGM.

Richy Thompson, Humanists UK’s Director of Public Affairs and Policy, will talk about recent efforts to change the law on assisted dying. He’ll examine how things are, how we got here, and where we might go next, taking in the cases of Tony and Jane Nicklinson, Paul Lamb, Noel Conway, Omid T, and parliamentary efforts for reform.

Richy represents Humanists UK on the steering group of Voice for Choice, Accord Coalition for inclusive education, and the Fair Admissions Campaign. He was on the advisory group of the Sex Education Forum, Treasurer of the Religious Education Council of England and Wales, and humanist representative and Vice Chair of Lambeth Standing Advisory Council on RE.

At Humanists UK, he has proven himself a formidable campaigner, achieving widespread media coverage and policy change.

Keith Hayward has provided this review of Richy’s talk

“Humanists UK is campaigning for a change to the law to allow assisted dying. The legal situation is quite complex including that suicide, and assisting in suicide, is not allowed under the law, yet the individual also has rights under the UK Human Right Act 1998 which incorporates rights set out in the European Convention on Human Rights. There have been various recent attempts to change the law, all of which have failed.

The medical establishment is generally against assisted dying, and is in favour only of palliative care. But palliative care is not enough where the medical situation is not terminal but where the patient’s medical state is unbearable. Also there are cases where the individual faces an unfavourable prognosis and wishes to make provision for assisted dying while he/she is mentally competent to do so.

He reviewed various cases, including Tony Nicklinson (almost completely paralysed), Diane Pretty (Motor Neurone Disease), Debbie Purdy (Multiple Sclerosis), and an individual known only as Martin (brainstem stroke).

He said that progress is very slow, but that there is pressure for change, and he feels that we are moving in the right direction. Where there are other cases that go to court then Humanists UK will provide support.

He pointed out that since 2015 more than 230 British nationals have had to make the heartbreaking journey to Dignitas in Switzerland to end their lives, because assisted dying is not available in the UK, which is quite unsatisfactory.”