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For many, the case for assisted dying is clear. But life – and death – is often not so simple

As it grows older, more liberal and less religious, the west is changing its mind about how it wants to die. Thirty years ago prescribing people the means to kill themselves was illegal everywhere bar Switzerland. But since then the practice has spread, reaching Belgium, the Netherlands, Canada, parts of the US and Australia, and perhaps soon, here.

Last week, calls to make assisted dying legal in Britain reached a new pitch. Earlier this month, the Observer published statements made by the late Diana Rigg on the right to die, as recorded by her daughter, the actor Rachael Stirling. Rigg was then dying of cancer: a “truly awful” experience. It was time, she said, to give “human beings political autonomy over their own death”.

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