Serious health problems more than double the suicide rate

According to new data released today by the Office of National Statistics (ONS), being diagnosed with a serious health condition is associated with a high rate of death by suicide. Nearly 1,000 people with lung and heart conditions died by suicide in England between 2017 and 2020. Following the study, Humanists UK called for compassionate assisted dying legislation that would introduce safeguards and a essential support for people suffering incurably. and terminally ill.

The Office of National Statistics study found high suicide rates among patients diagnosed with heart and lung disease as well as serious cancers. One year after a diagnosis of low-survival cancers, the suicide rate of patients was 2.4 times higher than an equivalent control population. The suicide rate among people diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a group of lung conditions that cause difficulty breathing, was also 2.4 times higher than an equivalent control population. Similarly, one year after diagnosis of chronic ischemic heart disease, the suicide rate of patients was almost double the rate of an equivalent control population.

Even more striking, the study found that patients with Huntington’s disease and motor neurone disease were significantly more likely to die by suicide. One year after a diagnosis of these degenerative neurological conditions, the patient suicide rate was 107.7 deaths per 100,000 people. The suicide rate for an equivalent control population was 0 per 100,000 people. The ONS has not presented these figures in the same way as for the other three issues, perhaps due to the relatively small sample size involved, but the difference is striking. In 2020, the Court of Appeal dismissed Phil Newby’s right to die case. Phil, 49, a father of two from Rutland and a member of Humanists UK, suffers from motor neurone disease.

People who traveled overseas for the purpose of helping to die would not show up as dead in ONS data.

If you are having difficulty coping, please call the Samaritans free of charge on 116 123 (UK and ROI) or contact other sources of support, such as those listed on the NHS Help for Health webpages. suicidal thoughts. Support is available 24 hours a day, every day of the year, providing a safe place for anyone struggling to cope, whoever they are, whatever they feel and whatever life has thrown at them.

Nathan Stilwell, campaigner for Humanists UK Assisted Dying, said:

“This recent study by the ONS is further evidence that our laws on assisted dying in the UK are fundamentally broken. People with serious medical conditions should not have to resort to suicide, which is traumatic for loved ones and incredibly risky. There must be safeguards in place and proper care.

“The assisted dying law that we are calling for would introduce many safeguards that currently do not exist. This includes approved locations, a formal request for assisted death that can be withdrawn at any time, and a mandatory ‘cooling-off period’ to allow people to change their minds. If we had assisted dying legislation today, people could openly discuss their options with loved ones and a medical professional. It is only through such a change in the law that people’s dignity, autonomy and choice can be respected.