UK law around assisted death of terminally ill 'broken'

Allowing doctors to prescribe a lethal dose to terminally ill patients with less than six months to live will repair the UK's "broken" laws around the right to die and give clarity and compassion to the most vulnerable, Lord Falconer has told ITV News.

The bill is due to come before the House of Lords for a second reading this Friday. In an interview with ITV News Presenter Julie Etchingham, Lord Falconer rejected criticism from the Church of England and doctors about the law, saying the safeguards where in place to make sure it could not be abused.

Lord Falconer said evidence from other places with such laws such as the US state of Oregon, showed that it provides comfort to those who need it, within the very narrow framework it is allowed.

Lord Falconer said there were several vital elements to the proposed law, including strict frameworks for whom it could apply to:

  • The individual would have to be able to self-administer the lethal dose
  • The individual would have to have already have been told by doctors that they had six months or less to live
  • Two doctors would have to assess the individual's condition

Read: Right-to-die would be signed off by two doctors

He said the Archbishop of Canterbury was "misguided and incredibly thoughtless" for saying the law would leave a "sword of Damocles" over the heads of elderly people, as they would have to meet the criteria, and therefore could not be bullied into it.

Welby: Assisted dying plans 'mistaken and dangerous'

Under the new law, locked-in sufferer Tony Nicklinson would not have been given the right to die, but his widow welcomed the proposed measures as a step in the right direction.

Watch: Right-to-die backing from Lord Carnet welcomed by Jane Nicklinson

He rejected criticism from disabled groups who had raised fears saying there was no threat to those who were disabled, as they would not be able to meet the criteria.

He called for members of Parliament to vote with their conscience and pass the law, within the protective framework his Bill sets out.

Read: Desmond Tutu backs new law on right-to-die