Pressure mounts on Government to legalise assisted suicide

Health secretary Matt Hancock says his views on assisted suicide have changed(Photo: Parliament.Live)

Matt Hancock has said that all arguments need to be considered in the debate on legalising assisted suicide.

The Health Secretary told a meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Choice at the End of Life that he is seeking the latest data on how many Britons who ended their lives had a terminal medical condition, The Telegraph reports. 

The APPG for Choice at the End of Life is seeking to bring proposals to Parliament to change the law on assisted suicide.

Hancock told the group he has asked the Office for National Statistics for data on people "travelling to Switzerland in order to die at a time of their choosing".

Having the "best statistics" is crucial to ensuring an "informed" public debate, he said. 

Hancock told the meeting that his own views on assisted suicide changed after speaking to Sir Paul Cosford, the medical director of Public Health England who died of cancer last month. Sir Paul had spoken in support of a change to the law prior to his death. 

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."

Assisted suicide is illegal in the UK and carries a prison sentence of up to 14 years, but in the last two decades, hundreds of Brits have gone to the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland to end their lives. 

Co-chair of the APPG for Choice at the End of Life, Andrew Mitchell MP, wrote in The Telegraph: "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?"

Other MPs are rallying to oppose any relaxation of the law, with the APPG for Dying Well campaigning for access to excellent care at the end of life as an alternative to the legalisation of assisted suicide. 

Writing in The Telegraph, the Chair of the newly formed APPG, Danny Kruger MP said, "We fully appreciate the complex moral and personal issues at stake. However, the answer to managing the end of life is not to allow doctors or judges to authorise an artificial termination."