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Anthony Stansfeld signs open letter calling for changes to assisted dying law

Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) for the Thames Valley, Anthony Stansfeld, is among 18 PCCs to have signed an open letter calling for the Ministry of Justice to launch a “call for evidence” in relation to the law around assisted dying.

The letter has been sent to Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice Robert Buckland.

It states: “We believe it is time for a renewed look at the functioning of the existing law on assisted dying. While there are clearly differences of opinion as to whether or how the law should change, we contend that the law is not working as well as it could and seek an inquiry to confirm that.”

PCC for the Thames Valley, Anthony Stansfeld said: “I felt it was important that I signed this open letter calling for changes in the law surrounding assisted dying. It is an emotive subject but recent high profile cases have again shown that the current law can unnecessarily prolong great suffering to both the patient and their close family.  It needs to be looked at again.”

The campaign has been led on behalf of Ron Hogg, the Police, Crime and Victims Commissioner for Durham, who has motor neurone disease and is calling for the law to be changed to allow him to end his own life.

Mr Hogg, who was diagnosed with the incurable muscle wasting condition in August, has spoken about how he wants the right to end his suffering at a time chosen by himself, with his family.

The letter, which has been signed by Mr Hogg as well as PCCs from a range of political parties, refers to recent high profile cases such as that of Mavis Eccleston. The great grandmother was acquitted by a jury last month after being charged with murder for helping her husband of 60 years end his own life rather than suffer further agony caused by advanced bowel cancer.

The letter states that the existing blanket ban on assisted dying ‘has caused distress, confusion and pain for dying people, their loved ones, and even the investigating police officers themselves’ and that ‘the cost of these investigations – financial, emotional and societal – cannot be easily dismissed’.

It points out that Justice Secretary Robert Buckland was asked in Parliament by cross-Party MPs to reinstate the commitment his predecessor had made to a Ministry of Justice call for evidence.

The letter adds: “We echo these calls. We owe it to dying and bereaved people, and their families, to try and find a better way of dealing with assisted dying. Myself and other Police and Crime Commissioners believe a call for evidence will prove or disprove whether the law needs updating.”

Sarah Wootton, Chief Executive of Dignity in Dying, said: “We welcome the letter from the Police and Crime Commissioners and are pleased to have their support for a new investigation into the functioning of the current law.

“It is clear that the blanket ban on assisted dying is not working for dying people, for their families, or for the dedicated public servants who must enforce it. Everyone should back this demand for a call for evidence so we can fully understand the law’s effects and find a way to improve the situation.”