Terry Pratchett OBE speaks to British Humanist Association about assisted dying, ahead of potential reforms to the law

  • post Type / Campaigns
  • Date / 30 June 2009

Speaking exclusively to the British Humanist Association (BHA), award-winning author and BHA Distinguished Support Terry Pratchett OBE discusses his views on why it is ethical to allow people to be able to choose to have assisted death, ‘when medicine cannot do any more’. Mr Pratchett recorded his thoughts on film for the BHA, ahead of a vote in the House of Lords on part of the law on assisted dying which, if passed, would remove the threat of prosecution of friends and relatives who those who compassionately accompany terminally ill loved ones abroad to die in a country where assisted dying is legal.

Mr Pratchett explained, ‘An individual’s personal decision should I think be honoured if it’s clearly been made by them when they’re in a state of compos mentis and in full control of their faculties.’

Elucidating the point, he said, ‘I’m thinking of a sensible decision that at point x a life should stop without pain, without undue suffering. And I’m talking here about pain and undue suffering to those who are left behind as well. It seems sensible and generous.’

‘Either we have control over our lives or we do not. I don’t believe that life is a gift from God, because I don’t believe there is a god in the sense that people think of that.’

‘We should be more open about this sort of thing. Not too clinical. But a little bit of philosophy I find is very helpful at times like this.’

The BHA has long been involved in the debates around assisted dying. We defend the ethical principles of the right of each individual to live by her/his own personal values, and the freedom to make decisions about her/his own life so long as this does not result in harm to others.

Naomi Phillips, BHA Public Affairs Officer, said, ‘With around 80% of the public, whether religious or non-religious, supporting assisted dying for the terminally ill, with strict safeguards, it’s time Parliamentarians took steps to modernise the law. The amendment put down for debate in the Lords represents a small but significant step to making the law governing assisted dying more ethical, more compassionate and more reflective of the attitudes of today’s society.’


Watch the film of Terry Pratchett OBE discussing his views on assisted dying on the BHA’s YouTube channel.

Read the BHA’s briefing for Peers on the assisted dying amendment. The amendment will be debated on Tuesday 30 June but, subject to delays, this debate may roll over to the 5th day of Committee on Tuesday 7 July.

Read more about the BHA’s position on assisted dying.

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