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Ethics briefing
  1. Sophie Brannan,
  2. Ruth Campbell,
  3. Martin Davies,
  4. Veronica English,
  5. Rebecca Mussell,
  6. Julian C Sheather
  1. Department of Medical Ethics, British Medical Association, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Martin Davies, Department of Medical Ethics, British Medical Association, BMA House, Tavistock Square, London WC1H 9JP, UK; mdavies{at}bma.org.uk

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Assisted dying

Marris Bill

In June 2015, Labour Member of Parliament (MP) Rob Marris, who topped the ballot for private members’ bills, introduced the Assisted Dying (No. 2) Bill (‘the Marris Bill’) into the House of Commons. The Marris Bill was nearly identical to the Falconer Bill debated in the House of Lords early in the year (Eth 20, 2014–2015), and would permit competent, terminally ill adults with a clear and settled intention to end their life to receive physician assistance to do so. Two doctors must be satisfied that the persons are terminally ill and are reasonably expected to die within 6 months, have the capacity (construed in accordance with the Mental Capacity Act 2005) and have a clear and settled intention to end their lives, which have been reached voluntarily, on an informed basis.

The Marris Bill also included one of the amendments approved at Committee Stage of the Falconer Bill, which, in addition to the need for two doctors to be satisfied as to the eligibility criteria, would require all requests to be approved by a judge of the High Court (Family Division). Further to this, the Marris Bill included two new clauses: first, a requirement for High Court Judges to rule on requests within 14 days1 and, second, a requirement for any doctor with doubts about the capacity of a person requesting assistance to refer that person for assessment to ‘an appropriate specialist’.2

The Marris Bill received its second reading in the House of Commons on 11 September 2015, where it was overwhelmingly rejected by 330 votes to 118.3 A large number of those who opposed the Bill did so on the grounds that it had the potential to go beyond its limits and to pressurise the elderly and other vulnerable people, particularly those without family support, to consider …

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