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Issue:- 24 February 2010

Sir Patrick Stewart, Ian McEwan and Chris Broad join Dignity in Dying’s campaign to legalise assisted dying

DIGNITY in Dying and its campaign to legalise the choice of assisted dying for terminally ill, mentally competent adults has long had the backing of greatly respected Patrons such as Sir Jonathan Miller, Zoe Wanamaker, and Sir Michael Holroyd, as well as the majority of the general public. In the last twelve months Dignity in Dying has gained the additional support of more than thirty new high profile supporters.

Sir Patrick Stewart is among the latest to endorse the campaign to legalise assisted dying in the UK. Sir Patrick’s reason for support is simple. He says:- “We have no control over how we arrive in the world, but at the end of a life we should have control over how we leave it.”

Also joining the esteemed list of Patrons are author Ian McEwan, and former England cricketer Chris Broad. Chris’s wife Michelle was suffering from Motor Neurone Disease and ended her life alone when her suffering became unbearable. Chris Broad said:- “My wife, Miche died alone because she had an incurable disease. She was a very gregarious person and to die alone because the law wouldn't allow loved ones to be with her at that time must have been awful for her. We are, by nature creatures who make decisions and like company, why then if we are struck down with an incurable disease are we forced to end our lives alone? This law must change and I support Dignity in Dying in their pursuit of this.”

Ian McEwan’s support for a change in the law has been reinforced by one of his friends, Dr Ann McPherson becoming terminally ill with pancreatic cancer. Ian says:- “People who have a definite terminal illness and who are mentally competent and who want to be able to die and to do so on their own terms should be able to do so, without criminalising the people around them. There is a lot of unnecessary suffering caused by people either having to leave their homeland to go and die or people having to criminalise near family and friends. The case seems to be quite overwhelming. The issue is not really of death but of how you live out that last chapter, those last sentences. To do it calmly with all the people around you that have mattered and you love, in familiar surroundings should be a wonderful thing. Not to be writhing on a hospital bed or sitting glumly several hundred miles away from home.”

Other new Patrons include:- comedian Jo Brand, fashion designer Jasper Conran, rock musician Howard Devoto, pioneer surgeon, Sir Terence English, Oscar winning actress Brenda Fricker, philosopher Professor A.C Grayling, actress Miriam Karlin, award winning author Sir Terry Pratchett, presenter Nick Ross, actress and director Janet Suzman, Falklands veteran Simon Weston OBE, writer A.N. Wilson and presenter Matthew Wright.

This is a very hard topic to cover, so what are you, our readers views on this very sensitive subject?  Email your thoughts to our newsroom via:-

Government re-think on benefits 'right choice' for the North

THE Government's decision to drop its proposals to punish jobseekers by cutting their housing benefit by 10% from the Welfare Reform Bill has been welcomed by a leading campaign group in the North of England.  The Government had been proposing to cut housing benefit for jobseekers who have been unemployed for more than a year. However, ministers have confirmed that this proposal has now been dropped from the Bill. This could have affected over 62,000 people across the North of England.  Across the North the top 10 areas which would have been affected:-

Liverpool - 4,620 claimants over 12 months
Kingston upon Hull, City of - 3,700
Leeds - 3,135
Manchester - 3,115
Sheffield - 2,940
Bradford - 1,925
Sefton - 1,715
Doncaster - 1,665
Wigan - 1,545
Rotherham - 1,480

However the Federation criticised the Government's decision to press ahead with plans to effectively force out almost 700,000 households living in social housing through new housing benefit cuts for those households under occupying their properties. This could mean many will effectively be compelled to leave their homes.  Under the proposals, outlined by ministers on previous occasions - housing benefit will be cut to households deemed to be 'under occupying' their properties, with the result that most may effectively be compelled to leave their homes. The Federation believes that around 680,000 households living in local authority and housing association housing will lose some of their housing benefit, with many people struggling to pay their rent and ending up being forced to leave their home.

Federation Head of North Derek Long said:- "The Government rethink on benefits right choice for the North.  This news will be a great relief to over 62,000 people in the North of England. Dropping the proposal to punish the unemployed by cutting their housing benefit if they have been out of work for more than a year is quite simply the right thing to do.  The changes would have punished the unemployed regardless of how few jobs there are in their local area and how hard they have looked for work. In the North of England there are around 5.5 claimants for every vacancy, and in some of the worst affected areas around 45 claimants for every vacancy. However the cuts to housing benefit for households deemed by the Government to be under occupying are extremely harsh and could effectively compel thousands of people to leave their homes. As a result of these changes, thousands of couples are no longer able to offer their grown up children a room to stay in should their circumstances change, and many single parents will be pushed away from friends, relatives and support networks."

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