Liberal Democrats

F15: Dignity, Care and Choice at the End of Life

Motion as passed by conference

Submitted by: 11 members

Mover: Christine Jardine MP.

Summation: Liam McArthur MSP.

Conference believes that:

  1. People with a terminal illness deserve to live and die with as much dignity and control as possible.
  2. It is vital that high-quality palliative care is available to anyone who needs it.
  3. Carers looking after a loved one who is terminally ill deserve more support.
  4. It is wrong that the current law not only robs people who are terminally ill of dignity and choice at the end of their lives, but also criminalises family members who support their loved one's final wish.

Conference notes that:

  1. An estimated 300 terminally ill people in England end their lives each year, and, in 2019, more than 50 people from the UK travelled to Switzerland for an assisted death at an average cost of £10,000 each.
  2. Laws have been passed to give terminally ill people the option of assisted dying in many other parts of the world, including Canada, New Zealand, ten US states and three Australian states.
  3. Polling by Populus in 2019 found that 84% of people - including 85% of people with a disability - support changing the law to give terminally ill adults the option of assisted dying.
  4. A British Medical Association survey in 2020 found that 50% of doctors personally support changing the law on prescribing drugs for eligible patients to self-administer to end their own life, while only 39% oppose it.

Conference reaffirms the Liberal Democrat commitments to:

  1. Champion the freedom, dignity and well-being of individuals, and respect their right to freedom of conscience.
  2. Provide more choice at the end of life, and move towards free end-of-life social care, whether people spend their last days at home or in a hospice.
  3. Support unpaid carers, including by guaranteeing a right to respite care, raising Carer's Allowance, and making it easier to juggle paid work with caring responsibilities.

Conference further reaffirms its support for legislation providing for medical assistance to die to be available to patients in particular circumstances, subject to rigorous safeguards to prevent abuse.

Conference welcomes the Assisted Dying Bill introduced by Baroness Meacher in the House of Lords, which would legalise assisted dying as a choice for terminally ill, mentally competent adults in England and Wales, as well as Liam McArthur's plans for a Members Bill in the Scottish Parliament to do the same in Scotland.

Conference endorses the safeguards set out in the Assisted Dying Bill to:

  1. Restrict it to terminally ill people who have six months or less to live and have made and signed a declaration that they have a voluntary, clear, settled and informed wish to end their life.
  2. Require two independent doctors to confirm that the person is terminally ill, has the capacity to make the decision, and has reached it voluntarily, on an informed basis and without coercion or duress.
  3. Require an application to be made to and approved by the High Court.
  4. Include a mandatory waiting period to give the person time to reflect on their decision.
  5. Require the person to self-administer the medicine to end their life, and prohibit anyone else from administering it to them.
  6. Enshrine the right of anyone to refuse to participate in assisted dying if they have a conscientious objection.

Conference calls on the Government to make time available in this parliamentary session for both Houses to fully consider the Assisted Dying Bill.

Conference further believes that Liberal Democrat parliamentarians should have a free vote on the Bill.

Applicability: England and Wales.