It is well and truly winter, with new layers of warm clothing being added every week - but how to keep out the chill wind of euthanasia's counsel of despair? In terms of having bills and court cases to fight, we are drawing to the end of a quieter year than we've had for a while. Still, the threats remain: campaigners for euthanasia and assisted suicide in this country take heart from moves abroad, and we continue to see evidence of attitudes placing greater or lesser values on lives affected by illness and disability. Here's a reminder of what's been going on.


In September, we celebrated a year since MPs, after an informed and passionate debate, rejected the Marris Assisted Dying (No 2) Bill 330-118. Immediately after that debate, many MPs committed themselves to improving people's experience of palliative care, to better overcome the concerns which prompt some people to support legalised assisted suicide. This autumn, we told MPs considering the nation's approach to suicide prevention that they must never allow suicidal tendencies on the part of people with serious illnesses and disabilities to be set aside as being different or even 'understandable'.

Developments abroad

The latest statistical releases from Washington state, Switzerland and Quebec have all been worrying.

  • In the year British MPs rejected the practice, assisted suicide in Washington rose to its highest level and was characterised by the youngest participant; shortened doctor-patient relationships; and the rise of financial pressure as a factor
  • Swiss authorities, publishing statistics for the first time since 2009, recorded 742 assisted suicides of Swiss residents in 2014
  • Officials in Quebec say the number of euthanasia deaths in the first seven months (262) was almost three times their expectation

In the Low Countries, the spectre of extension looms large. It was reported in September that authorities in Belgium had received the first official report of a minor dying through euthanasia since the law was extended to include children in 2014. The following month, Dutch Government ministers told Parliament that they wanted to bring forward additional legislation to allow euthanasia for 'people who regard their life as completed'. It was reported in November that Mark Langedijk, a 41-year-old father of two, was euthanized in the Netherlands after battling alcoholism for eight years.

In California, meanwhile, sick people are already facing the dilemma posed to Oregonians Barbara Wagner and Randy Stroup: being told that certain treatments are no longer to be covered by health insurance, but assisted suicide will.

Despite the endless examples of euthanasia and assisted suicide's harmful effects on society, the number of US jurisdictions which permit, by legislation, assisted suicide, will soon hit six.

  • The District of Columbia - not a state, but not part of any other state - is set to adopt assisted suicide legislation, with the Council having voted 11-2 in favour on 1 November, and again on 15 November ahead of the Mayor's signature. The District is overseen by Congress, which could veto the legislation.
  • Like Oregon in 1994 and Washington in 2008, Colorado adopted Oregon-style assisted suicide legislation through a ballot initiative. The measure was endorsed by almost 65% of voters on the same day as the Presidential election.

Two small doses of good news:

  • South Australia's legislature threw out euthanasia legislation after an all-night debate resulting in a 23-23 vote, with the Speaker casting against the bill.
  • the Prime Minister of New Zealand John Key said that regardless of the outcome of the current Parliamentary committee inquiry, his Government will not bring forward any bill to allow for assisted suicide of euthanasia. National and Labour Party MPs will be allowed a free vote on any bill that might come forward.


While British Parliamentarians rejected assisted suicide on the basis of such evidence as above, advocates continue to fight their corner on the basis of linguistic contortions and hard cases.

We will always need your help to maintain the evidence-based case against assisted suicide, and remain enormously grateful for your financial support; any donation that you can give allows us to continue this work, which we began ten years ago.

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