Matt Hancock wants a new debate on legalising assisted suicide as he requests data on Britons with terminal conditions who have killed themselves
- Health Secretary asked for figures from statistician Sir Ian Diamond last week
- Matt Hancock reportedly said data will provide further information for debate
- In the UK, assisted suicide is illegal and can be punishable by up to 14 years in jail
- It follows nearly 50 senior doctors calling for an inquiry into the ban last year
- Anyone seeking help can call Samaritans free on 116 123 or visit Samaritans.org
Matt Hancock wants a new debate on legalising assisted suicide after asking for data on Britons with terminal conditions who have killed themselves.
The Health Secretary requested the figures from the UK’s top statistician, Sir Ian Diamond, last week.
During a private meeting, Mr Hancock told the All Party Parliamentary Group for Choice that he hopes the data will provide further information for a discussion on legalising doctor-assisted suicide across the nation, reports The Telegraph.
In the UK, assisted suicide is illegal with anyone helping or encouraging someone to take their own life facing up to 14 years in prison in England and Wales
During a private meeting, Matt Hancock (pictured in London on Saturday morning) reportedly told the All Party Parliamentary Group for Choice that he hopes the data will provide further information for a discussion on legalising doctor-assisted suicide across the nation
Mr Hancock told MPs and peers that he had asked the statistician ‘to consider what should be published in terms of statistics that can inform the debate in this country.’
He also said that he wants the figures to ‘shed more light on the data of those at a time of their choosing’.
Mr Hancock reportedly explained that he was initially against assisted suicide, but was left impacted after speaking to Sir Paul Cosford, who served as Public Health England’s medical director and died last month after a four-year battle with cancer.
He added: ‘I think it is important that public debate is informed by the best statistics.’
The Health Secretary requested the figures from the UK’s top statistician, Sir Ian Diamond (pictured above, during a media briefing), last week
Is assisted suicide illegal in Britain?
Under the Suicide Act 1961, anyone helping or encouraging someone to take their own life in England or Wales can be prosecuted and jailed for up to 14 years if found guilty of an offence.
Section two of the act states that a person commits an offence if they carry out an act capable of encouraging or assisting the suicide or attempted suicide of another person, and the act was intended to encourage or assist suicide or an attempt at suicide.
In 2015 MPs including former prime minister David Cameron rejected a Bill to legalise assisted dying.
Opposition to changing the law has come from faith groups, campaigners who say disabled people may feel pressured to end their lives and campaigners who fear assisted dying would become a business.
It follows nearly 50 senior doctors calling for an inquiry into the ban on assisted dying in Britain last year.
The move came just days after New Zealand voted to make assisted dying legal for terminally ill people.
Other countries passing similar laws include Switzerland, Belgium, Canada, Colombia, Luxembourg, Holland and parts of the US and Australia.
A survey from last October also found that 50 per cent of British doctors believe there should be a change in the law to allow helping patients to die.
It found half supported the change to allow the prescription of life-ending drugs.
The results could pave the way for the UK’s largest doctors’ union to drop its long-standing opposition to assisted dying – its position since 2006.
Around four years ago the British Medical Association rejected a motion to adopt a more neutral position on the issue.
But the recent survey of its members found just 39 per cent are personally opposed to a change in the law, with 11 per cent undecided.
However, when it came to being prepared to actively participate in prescribing drugs which would lead to someone’s death, just 36 per cent said they would be willing, compared with 45 per cent who wouldn’t.
The union said the results of the survey of almost 29,000 medics and students will not determine BMA policy but will be discussed in a debate at its annual meeting next year.
For confidential support, call the Samaritans on 116123 or visit a local Samaritans branch. See samaritans.org for details.