While current lockdown laws in the U.K effectively prevent people from going places for leisure, the Health secretary says they will allow people to travel to other countries as long as it is for the purpose of assisted dying.
U.K Health Secretary Matt Hancock, responding to a question regarding the impacts of the country's new travel ban on aging individuals, particularly those who are terminally ill and might desire an assisted death, said they can travel to other countries as long as assisted suicide is allowed by law in those places, and they will go there to die, LifeSite News reported.
"[T]raveling abroad for the purpose of assisted dying is a reasonable excuse, so anyone doing so would not be breaking the law," Hancock said.
The Health secretary's response comes amid new rules that prohibit people from going places unless they have a reasonable excuse. The new regulations were introduced in response to the "serious and imminent" public health threat that the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) brings as it spreads in England.
The restrictions and exemptions included in the new lockdown law were designed to help prevent and control the spread of the virus, which has affected lives around the globe. It prohibits people from going out of their homes, except for some reasons such as when going out to withdraw money from the bank, purchasing supplies from a grocery store, or visiting a healthcare provider for a medical need.
Foreign travel is currently prohibited under the lockdown law, unless the person travels for "work, education or other legally-permitted reasons."
Conservative MP Andrew Mitchell, the person who asked Hancock about the matter, indicated that despite the Health secretary's works, the new lockdown laws can still discourage people from traveling to locations where assisted suicide is legal, such as Switzerland.
Scott Benton, also a conservative MP, urged that instead of encouraging the terminally ill to travel abroad for assisted suicide, the Government should simply make sure that they can receive the best palliative care in the country.
Laws against assisted suicide
Despite the Health secretary's statements, it's worth noting that assisted suicide is not actually allowed anywhere in the U.K.
According to the U.K. Suicide Act 1961, it is illegal for anyone to help or encourage someone to take their own life by whatever means. This legislation, however, does not prohibit citizens from traveling to another place for the purpose of assisted death.
The Health secretary's response, then, has been considered by some as a contradiction to the purposes by which the new regulations were made.
Christian MP Fiona Bruce, for example, noted the statement's insensitivity to the current plight of people who are "making huge sacrifices" amid efforts to contain the spread of the virus. She also spoke as to how it goes against the reasons for the lockdown.
Bruce said, "does the Minister understand and accept the views of many, including in this House, that it would be completely inappropriate - indeed, insensitive - of this Parliament to go anywhere near considering making access to any form of suicide easier?"