Hancock
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Matt Hancock said his attitudes towards assisted suicide had been affected by speaking to Sir Paul Cosford, the medical director of Public Health England, who suffered from cancer and died aged 57
Matt Hancock has opened the door to legalising assisted suicide in Britain by asking for official figures on how many people who have killed themselves for medical reasons.

The Health Secretary wrote to Sir Ian Diamond, the national statistician, last week to ask for data on how many Britons who kill themselves have terminal medical conditions.


Comment: Hancock might want to inquire about the rise in mental health issues caused by the lockdowns that he has supported: As a headmaster I see children suffering mental health issues unlike anything before, this new shutdown of schools is disastrous


Mr Hancock told a private meeting of MPs and peers that he wanted the figures to inform a new debate on legalising doctor-assisted suicide in the UK, The Telegraph can disclose.

Currently, doctors who help someone to die in the UK can be jailed for up to 14 years. This means that hundreds of Britons have had to pay thousands of pounds to travel to the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland to end their lives. In the 22 years to 2020, 475 Brits have gone to Dignitas to kill themselves.


Comment: Why is he prioritising this issue over others?


Assisted suicide is legal under certain circumstances in more than half a dozen countries. Euthanasia for terminally-ill people will become legal in New Zealand this November after a referendum last year.

Mr Hancock told a meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Choice at the End of Life that he had asked Sir Ian "to consider what should be published in terms of statistics that can inform the debate in this country".

He added that he hoped the data from the Office for National Statistics would "shed more light on the data of those travelling to Switzerland in order to die at a time of their choosing".

Mr Hancock told the meeting that it was "important that public debate is informed by the best statistics". Currently only "partial" information is published - based on inquest verdicts - about suicides of people "who have particular conditions".

He said: "I have written to the ONS. It is rightly a task for the ONS. I think it is important that public debate is informed by the best statistics."

Mr Hancock told the meeting that when he became an MP he was against assisted suicide as he had always been worried about pressure being brought to bear on people to kill themselves.

But he said he had been affected by speaking to Sir Paul Cosford, the medical director of Public Health England who suffered from cancer and died aged 57 earlier this month.

In an article in the British Medical Journal last October, Sir Paul called for a policy rethink on assisted dying, describing the current law as "inhumane".

Mr Hancock said: "People's views of this do change. The argument that we must protect those who are vulnerable from being coerced or feeling that they ought to go down this route.

"That is an important and valid argument but it is one of many that we need to consider. That is a well informed public debate is the thing to do now."

MPs led by former Conservative Cabinet minister Andrew Mitchell want the Government to allow a free vote on legalising assisted suicide in the UK as early as 2024. Credit: Paul Grover

MPs led by former Conservative Cabinet minister Andrew Mitchell want the Government to allow a free vote on legalising assisted suicide in the UK as early as 2024.

Mr Mitchell told the meeting that his group wanted to bring to Parliament a "tightly drawn" proposal to legalise assisted suicide for someone who wants "to be put to sleep" to avoid suffering.

Two doctors would have to agree that the person is within six months of the end of their lives, and a High Court judge would have to agree that it was their wish to die.

Writing for the Telegraph, Mr Mitchell asks: "Surely we must consider the fate of those who would rather, instead of living out their final days in agony or in anguish, wish to end their own lives on their own terms, surrounded by friends and family?"


Comment: Sadly, lockdowns denied many the right to be with loved ones during their last days, despite it being safe, and despite pleas from the dying and their families.


A spokesman for the ONS said: "We have received a letter from the Health Secretary Matt Hancock and will respond in due course."

A Department of Health spokesman said that Mr Hancock had asked for the ONS information "to inform Parliament's debate on the issue".

He said: "The Secretary of State has repeatedly said that it is for Parliament to take forward debate on this issue given that this is an area of conscience on which the Government does not take a view.

"This is an issue of conscience on which the government does not take a view."

We must examine whether our current laws bear up under scrutiny