Britain’s pending assisted-dying bill, modeled on Oregon’s Death With Dignity law, gained both international attention and enthusiastic backing from several notable figures as it advanced in Parliament in July.
Nobel Peace Prize laureate Desmond Tutu of South Africa, one of the world’s foremost icons of moral authority, voiced his strong support for choice in dying in The Guardian: “I have been fortunate to spend my life working for dignity for the living. Now I wish to apply my mind to the issue of dignity for the dying. I revere the sanctity of life – but not at any cost.”
This pronouncement came only days after former archbishop of Canterbury, Lord George Carey, reversed his previous position of opposition and declared his full support of the aid-in-dying bill, explaining: “The fact is that I have changed my mind. The old philosophical certainties have collapsed in the face of the reality of needless suffering.” After Carey’s bombshell, Compassion & Choices President Barbara Coombs Lee wrote, “ … the religious foundation from which aid-in-dying opponents build their strength cracked.”
Legendary physicist and thought leader Stephen Hawking went public with his powerful endorsement on BBC-TV: “We should not take away the freedom of the individual to choose to die.” And most recently, The Independent reprinted supportive statements from entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson’s blog on the Virgin.com website. His comments included, “An assisted-dying law would not result in more people dying, but in fewer people suffering,” and, “The House of Lords needs to look to Oregon in the U.S., where an assisted-dying law has worked for over 16 years.”
A 2010 British Social Attitudes survey showed that 82% of the general public in Britain supports such a law. After the U.K. bill received its second reading on July 18 – the first stage of a bill’s progress through Parliament – it moved to the committee stage. Check our website and Facebook for updates on this encouraging initiative and posts on Tutu, Branson and Hawking to share.