Bioethics News

Words matter in assisted suicide

Another euthanasia lobby group has rebranded itself. SOARS, The Society for Old Age Rational Suicide, a lobby group based in the United Kingdom, has renamed itself My Death, My Decision. “Suicide” is a word that nearly all campaigners avoid as it carries negative connotations.

In 2009 SOARS split from another UK group, Dignity in Dying, which is currently the largest UK assisted dying lobby group. The issue was at what point it should be legal to request assisted suicide. Dignity in Dying settled for the voter-friendly time of six months’ life expectancy for a terminally ill person.

SOARS, however, insisted that there should be no time limit, as many people are left incurably suffering for longer than six months. It wants to make it possible for people to request death when they feel that their lives are complete.

Dignity in Dying has also rebranded itself – several times. Founded in 1935 as The Voluntary Euthanasia Legalisation Society, it became the Euthanasia Society in 1960, the Voluntary Euthanasia Society in 1969, Exit in 1979, reverting to the Voluntary Euthanasia Society in 1982, and evolving into Dignity in Dying in 2005.

The most prominent American group has followed a similar trajectory. The Hemlock Society was founded in 1980; in 2003 it became End of Life Choices; and in 2004 Compassion & Choices. 

This article is published by Michael Cook and BioEdge under a Creative Commons licence. You may republish it or translate it free of charge with attribution for non-commercial purposes following these guidelines. If you teach at a university we ask that your department make a donation.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.