The safeguards outlined below are the minimum that we believe an assisted dying law should include. The list is not exhaustive and will be subject to consultation during the process of introducing an assisted dying law:
- The individual must be a terminally ill adult and a resident of the UK. People with a chronic illness or disability who are not terminally ill would not be eligible for assistance to die. There are a number of definitions of terminal illness currently used in the health service and by government which could be incorporated into the legislation.
- The patient must have mental capacity to make the decision, and be referred to a psychiatrist for assessment if there is any doubt.
- The process must be entirely voluntary and initiated by the patient - a doctor could not suggest assisted dying.
- Two doctors - a consultant and an independent doctor, must agree that the patient meets the eligibility criteria set down in the legislation (terminally ill, mentally competent, making a voluntary request and so on).
- The doctors must inform the patient that they can revoke the request at any time.
- There must be discussions to explore why the patient wants an assisted death, and what pain and symptom relief is available, as well as other palliative and supportive options.
- A 'cooling off' period between the request for assistance being formally accepted (i.e. after all the safeguards have been met) and receiving the life-ending prescription to ensure that the patient has further time to consider their options.
- The patient must take the medication themselves ensuring that they make the decision and are in control of the final act. The doctor does not end the patient's life - the patient controls their own death.
- Data would be recorded to ensure the process was effectively monitored and reported.
For more on safeguards, download our briefing sent to Parliamentarians in Summer 2011.