Views of disability rights organisations on assisted dying legislation in England, Wales and Scotland: an analysis of position statements

Journal of Medical Ethics 47 (12):e64-e64 (2021)
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Assisted dying is a divisive and controversial topic and it is therefore desirable that a broad range of interests inform any proposed policy changes. The purpose of this study is to collect and synthesize the views of an important stakeholder group—namely people with disabilities —as expressed by disability rights organisations in Great Britain. Parliamentary consultations were reviewed, together with an examination of the contemporary positions of a wide range of DROs. Our analysis revealed that the vast majority do not have a clear public stance; those that do exhibit a significant diversity of opinion. DROs opposing legislation on assisted dying have argued that it would be premature, misguided, inequitable and culturally undesirable. Some specify conditions that would have to be satisfied before they could support legalisation, such as radical improvements in health and social care services and the elimination of discrimination against PwD. DROs supporting assisted dying maintain that a change in the law would promote autonomy, end intense suffering, can be delivered safely and is supported by the DRO’s membership. The discussion considers the reasons why several DROs adopt a neutral stance and the argument is made that, whatever their overarching stance on the issue, DROs need to be involved in the policy debate so that the crucial perspectives of PwD are heard and addressed. This is an important message for countries around the world that permit, or are considering legalising, assisted dying.



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