Just as with 29 February, periods of calm between efforts to legalise assisted suicide seem few and far between.
In 2012, the last Leap Year, Lord Falconer's stacked commission reported that Britain should permit doctors to dispense lethal drugs to patients deemed to have 12 months or less to live. Since then, we have fought and defeated bills before theScottish Parliament and the House of Commons, while draft legislation in Lord Falconer's name has come before the House of Lords three times, twice failing and now languishing low down the House's list of bills.
In this brief respite of 'relative calm', we are able join friends in highlighting what the UK is getting right and wrong in terms of care and support at the end of life, and what must be done to improve these.
'Calm' is not quite accurate, though.
You will have seen, earlier this month, media coverage of the BBC2 documentary 'How to Die: Simon's Choice'. The BBC has a long and chequered history in terms of covering the debate on assisted suicide, and we raised concerns about the normalisation of suicide; the programme's makers were finally forced to edit its content shortly before broadcast due to pressure from the Samaritans.
Assisted suicide campaigners declared that we were out of touch, and that Parliament had failed Simon Binner and his family. But what made the whole subject so interesting was that Debbie Binner, Simon's widow, said that she was glad that the Assisted Dying (No 2) Bill was rejected by MPs, and wrote extensively of advocates' failure to understand the effect of assisted suicide on families.
One person who was long a clear and defiant voice against assisted suicide was disability rights advocate Dr Kevin Fitzpatrick, who left us last month, a few days short of his 60th birthday. His funeral was an opportunity to remember a courageous and compassionate man, and while our whole movement is the poorer for his death, his life serves as a example of the kind of champions we need to keep coming forward. To complement their ongoing research into end of life care and assisted suicide, the BMA are asking members to send up to 800 words on their experience of 'a good death'- try your hand before 4 April.
Assisted suicide retains momentum around the world. Shortly after we answered a call for evidence from the New Zealand Parliament in January concerning legislative proposals there, Oregon published its 18th annual report. Eighteen years! No longer an infant, the Death with Dignity Act has hit its stride and the deaths reported last year saw a 24.4% rise on 2014. Almost half of the deceased cited 'not wanting to be a burden'; the top reasons remained existential, not medical; and participating doctors each wrote up to 27 lethal prescriptions for 2015. The 132 assisted suicides so far reported would translate to 2,147 for a population the size of the UK. That's a few seats short of filling - and emptying - the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden.
Even assiduous advocates accept that the Commons will not consider another bill in this Parliament, but the constant hum of domestic threat and foreign warning remains, and, still in the spirit of things that don't come around too often,we once again ask you to consider helping us to secure CNK's work with a donation. We're enormously grateful for the generosity of supporters in recent months, and we're delighted to see the names of both stalwarts and newer friends on the donations coming in. CNK was ten years old last month but we continue to find ourselves under severe financial pressure following an unexpected shortfall in funding and so now ask again: whether long-time supporter or new friend, please lend us your support.
Thank you, as always, for your encouragement and support.