The United Kingdom recently went back into lockdown because of a surge in COVID cases. Despite the new lockdown, which includes a ban on most travel, one form of travel is still allowed: assisted dying travel, or travel for the purposes of committing assisted suicide (although these terms technically different – more on this in a moment).
Indeed, the UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock noted, in a parliamentary exchange (see full exchange, below), that travel for the purposes of seeking death abroad constitutes a “reasonable excuse” to still travel. While the UK has strict laws in place covering the assistance or encouragement of someone to commit suicide, it is still legal to travel to another country where such services are legal.
Switzerland is one such country and is often the choice for people seeking a merciful end to their life. Specifically, assisted dying which is legally different than assisted suicide, although the terms are often confused.
In a previous report, the Guardian clarified thee terms for us:
“Assisted suicide is about helping someone to take their own life at their request – in other words the final deed is undertaken by the person themselves. Assisted dying can be used to mean both euthanasia, generally voluntary, and assisted suicide; however, some campaign groups use it to refer only to assisted suicide of terminally ill people.”Guardian
The most recent space of UK lockdowns provide the following guidance through December 2nd:
“If you live in England, you cannot travel overseas or within the UK, unless for work, education or other legally permitted reasons, and you should look to reduce the number of journeys you make. However you can and should still travel for a number of reasons, including:
- travelling to work where this cannot be done from home
- travelling to education and for caring responsibilities
- to visit those in your support bubble – or your childcare bubble for childcare
- hospital, GP and other medical appointments or visits where you have had an accident or are concerned about your health
- to buy goods or services from premises that are open, including essential retail
- to spend time or exercise outdoors – this should be done locally wherever possible, but you can travel to do so if necessary (for example, to access an open space)
- attending the care and exercise of a pet, or veterinary services“
The BBC has reported that Hancock stated: “Travelling abroad for the purpose of assisted dying is a reasonable excuse and so anyone doing so would not be breaking the law.”
You can watch the entire exchange here: