Former priest from Hassocks fights for change in law on assisted dying

A retired priest from Hassocks is urging people to sign a petition calling on the government to legalise assisted dying for terminally ill people.

The Rev Stephen Terry, 72, wants the government to hold a debate on assisted dying for mentally competent adults.

Dignity in Dying’s petition at petition.parliament.uk/petitions/604383 has more than 98,000 signatures already and must reach 100,000 by the end of June.

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Fr Terry said: “As a Church of England minister, I have frequently seen parishioners, with no hope of recovery, die in extreme pain, which even the most advanced and sophisticated palliative care cannot alleviate.

Retired Church of England minister the Reverend Stephen Terry, from Hassocks, is urging people to sign Dignity in Dying’s petition. Picture courtesy of Dignity in Dying.

“To those who would say that life is a gift from God, and should not therefore be ended by our hands, I would respond that the essence of a gift is that it is free, and for the recipient to do with as they will. If there are restrictions attached, it is not a gift.”

Fr Terry said he urges anyone who supports the idea that terminally ill people should be able to die on their own terms to sign the petition.

Dignity in Dying said the petition comes after Baroness Meacher’s Assisted Dying Bill fell at the prorogation of Parliament on April 28, despite passing its Second Reading unopposed in the House of Lords in October.

Fr Terry is a member of The Religious Alliance for Dignity in Dying.

He decided to speak out after new data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) indicated that terminally ill people are more than twice as likely to take their own lives than the general population.

Molly Pike, media and campaigns officer at Dignity in Dying, said: “Without a safe, legal option to die on their own terms, hundreds of terminally ill people every year are taking matters into their own hands using whatever means at their disposal, with Dignitas only open to those who can afford it and have the strength to travel.

"Under safeguarded assisted dying legislation only those with a terminal prognosis and full mental capacity as confirmed by independent doctors and a judge would be able to access this option, providing much-needed transparency and regulation where there is presently none.”

Dignity in Dying is a not-for-profit membership organisation that campaigns for a change in the law to allow assisted dying as a choice for terminally ill, mentally competent adults.

They said these laws would need to be subject to strict safeguards and combined with access to high quality palliative care.

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