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Thursday November 18 2021

Assisted Dying Should Be Legalised

History &
Social Policy

Autonomy, dignity and compassion. We wish to experience these things in our lives, so why shouldn’t we experience them in our deaths? That’s the argument made by those who support a change in the law to legalise assisted dying in the UK. People who are suffering intractably, they claim, but who are too ill to self-administer life-ending medication should have the right to be helped to end their lives. This would give choice and control to people with a terminal illness, marking a change from the current situation in which they must either take their own lives while they still have the capacity to do so, or continue to live in the knowledge that they are likely to become trapped in a state of intolerable suffering, which they cannot be helped out of. Of course we need to be aware of the so-called ‘slippery slope’ argument, which holds that a change in the law would lead to a situation where it becomes acceptable to kill people who do not wish to die. But with proper safeguards in place, claim its supporters, legalised assisted dying would be the hallmark of a civilised society. 

Quite the reverse, argue those who would keep the law unchanged. Assisted suicide is not the private act of an individual, they say, but one that involves relatives, friends, healthcare staff and society at large. The ‘right to die’, they insist, imposes a ‘duty to kill’ on someone else, most likely a doctor, imposing restrictions on that person’s autonomy. And then there is the risk of coercion by family members who stand to gain by a relative’s death. All too easily, the ‘right to die’ can become the ‘duty to die’, as people who are sick or disabled feel they should stop being a financial or emotional burden on those around them. Assisted dying would make death not something that we must simply accept when the time comes but a decision that each individual is responsible for – a move that would be deeply damaging to our society. 

Should assisted dying be viewed as a human right or as a danger to the most vulnerable people in our society? Join the debate, hear the arguments and decide for yourself.

Event Name

Assisted Dying Should Be Legalised


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Speakers for the motion
  • A. C. Grayling

    Founder and Principal of New College of the Humanities at Northeastern University, and Professor of Philosophy.

  • Henry Marsh

    Neurosurgeon and and bestselling author, who was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer in 2021

Against the motion
  • Anne Atkins

    Novelist and broadcaster

  • Katherine Sleeman

    Laing Galazka Chair in Palliative Care at King's College London and an honorary consultant in Palliative Medicine at King's College Hospital NHS Trust

Chair
  • Guddi Singh

    Paediatric doctor and TV presenter


Location
  • Online event
Time
  • Thursday 18 November 2021
  • 6pm to 7pm GMT



Speakers

For the motion

A. C. Grayling

Founder and Principal of New College of the Humanities at Northeastern University, and Professor of Philosophy.


Founder and Principal of New College of the Humanities at Northeastern University, and Professor of Philosophy. He is also a Supernumerary Fellow of St Anne's College, Oxford. He is the author of over thirty books of philosophy, biography, history of ideas, and essays. For a number of years, he was a columnist for The Guardian, The Times, and Prospect magazine. He has contributed to many leading newspapers in the UK, US and Australia, and to BBC Radio 4, Radio 3 and the World Service. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, a Vice President of Humanists UK, Patron of the Defence Humanists, Honorary Associate of the Secular Society, and a Patron of Dignity in Dying.

Henry Marsh

Neurosurgeon and and bestselling author, who was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer in 2021


Neurosurgeon whose work has been the subject of two major BBC documentaries, Your Life in their Hands in 2003 and The English Surgeon in 2009, which won an Emmy. His book Do No Harm (2014), was an international bestseller and has been translated into 34 languages. The book won both the Sky Arts South Bank Show 2015 Award for Literature and the PEN Ackerley Prize. In 2017 he published a second book, Admissions, which was a number 1 Sunday Times bestseller. Although retired from the NHS he continued to work in diverse countries such as Ukraine, Nepal, Pakistan and Albania until the start of the pandemic. He was made a CBE in 2010. In 2021 he announced that he had been diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer.
Against the motion

Anne Atkins

Novelist and broadcaster


Novelist, writer and regular contributor to the Today programme’s Thought For The Day.

Katherine Sleeman

Laing Galazka Chair in Palliative Care at King's College London and an honorary consultant in Palliative Medicine at King's College Hospital NHS Trust


Laing Galazka Chair in Palliative Care at King's College London and an honorary consultant in Palliative Medicine at King's College Hospital NHS Trust. She has experience of working across hospitals, hospices and community settings and her research focuses on understanding and improving care for people approaching the end of life, especially older people and those with dementia. She leads several large research programmes, including the Marie Curie-funded Better End of Life project, which produces an annual State of the Nation report on dying, death and bereavement in the UK. Her work has identified escalating needs for palliative care globally, inequalities in access to palliative care and outcomes such as achieving preferences for place of death, as well as weaknesses in evidence-informed policy relating to palliative and end of life care. In 2019 she won the European Association of Palliative Care's inaugural 'Women in Palliative Care' award for her work promoting gender equality. 
Chair

Guddi Singh

Paediatric doctor and TV presenter


Paediatric doctor and TV presenter, with wide experience in social justice and health equity. Singh has previously worked around the world, including with the World Health Organization (WHO), and is the current Advocacy lead for the British Association for Child and Adolescent Health and helps to manage the health think-tank, the Centre for Health and the Public Interest (CHPI). Singh’s presenting debut was as the host of BBC Two’s Babies: Their Wonderful World - the largest study on early child development ever attempted, BBC Two’s Trust Me I’m A Doctor and Al-Jazeera’s The Cure. During the COVID-19 pandemic, she co-hosted two BBC Two Horizon coronavirus specials, as well as Channel 4’s How to Avoid a Second Wave, followed by Why is Covid Killing People of Colour? on BBC One in 2021.