Should we legalise assisted dying?

Tuesday 1 October, 6.30pm until 8.30pm, Millennium Room, Carriageworks Theatre, 3 Millennium Square, Leeds LS2 3AD UK Satellite Events 2013

The question of assisted dying has rarely been out of the media spotlight in recent years. Although the Assisted Dying for the Terminally Ill Bill was blocked by the House of Lords in 2006, a spate of TV dramas, documentary films, and high-profile cases have led to renewed debate about introducing a change to the law to assist terminally ill people who request the ‘right to die’; including a new Assisted Dying Ballot be tabled before the House of Lords in May 2013.

Proponents of assisted dying aim to give people the ability to control their destiny. But many are also concerned that loosening the law would be a slippery slope leading to an increasing prevalence of assisted suicide, and would open the door to euthanasia. Others worry a change to the law would signal a cultural acceptance of suicide more generally. Critics, both secular and religious, oppose any new legislation. They emphasise the value of life and argue for a focus on prolonging life or on palliative care, suggesting that legalising assisted dying would irretrievably transform the relationship between doctors and patients. Advocates of assisted dying retort that legalisation would allow the practice to be publicly regulated and scrutinised.

Does the right to die at the time and manner one wishes follow directly from the right to choose how one lives? Or should suicide always be discouraged? How does the concept of ‘dignity’ fit in to this discussion? And why has the assisted dying debate come to assume such cultural and political importance in recent years?

Lynn Hagger
lecturer in law, University of Sheffield; non-executive director, Leeds Teaching NHS Trust

Professor Raymond Tallis
fellow, Academy of Medical Sciences; author, philosopher, critic and poet; recent books include NHS SOS and Aping Mankind; chair, Healthcare Professionals for Assisted Dying

Peter D Williams
executive officer, Right To Life

Dr Kevin Yuill
senior lecturer, history, University of Sunderland; author, Assisted Suicide: the liberal, humanist case against legalization

Pauline Hadaway
writer and researcher

Produced by
Paul Thomas civil servant; qualified FE teacher; organiser, Leeds Salon
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