Perry Walker writes:

For people who haven’t come across the Win-Win Workout before, here’s a summary. The aim is to find solutions to tricky and divisive political issues that work for everyone. We do that in two stages:

  • Identify a set of shared aims that everyone can live with
  • Seek solutions that meet those shared aims

This two-stage solution is critical. In this divisive and divided age, discussion of solutions so easily gets stuck in the binary. Abortion yes or no, Low Traffic Neighbourhoods yes or no, etc. We counter that division by seeking common ground. There is far more common ground at the level of aims – which include our needs and values – than there is at the level of solutions. Once we have a set of shared aims, we can return to solutions and have a much more constructive and creative discussion.

Our events are open to everybody. We do not know if the people who turn up will represent a wide range of views, across the divide. So we use role play to ensure that range. People take on a character, of which more below.

This event took place on April 3rd 2024. It was online and lasted for two hours.

Characters and their aims
Below are the six characters that participants took on, together with the aims that each character put forward, and the number of objections – if any – from the other characters.

Baroness Jane Campbell, born with spinal muscular atrophy, a severe muscle wasting disease, who has spent 40 years campaigning for the Rights of Disabled People

My first aim: for disabled people to receive the proper practical, emotional and medical support needed to live dignified lives (Acceptable to all)

My second aim: Minimise Coercion – Assisted dying decisions must serve best interests of the patient and not be subject to wider external vested interests (e.g. financial or other burden) (Acceptable to all)

Diana Rigg, who in the 1960s was the secret agent Emma Peel in The Avengers on ITV. She was diagnosed with lung cancer in March 2020 and died, aged 82, that September.

My first aim: To give human beings true agency over their own bodies at the end of life. (Two objections)

My second aim: Citizens are permitted to follow their own beliefs on AD within a protective framework (One objection)

Prue Leith, restaurateur and Great British Bake Off judge, and a patron of the campaigning organisation Dignity in Dying.

My aim: I want to be able to have the option to die by euthanasia if I was unwell or in severe pain. (Two objections)

Sharon Danley, from Toronto, in Canada. Her son, Matthew Main, was diagnosed at birth with multiple conditions, leading to chronic physical pain in his adult life. He made use of Canada’s medical assistance in dying, known as MAiD.

My aim: AD should only be available to those without the mental capacity to decide within a protective (medical and judicial) framework (Acceptable to all)

Anonymous, who helped her husband to go to Switzerland and die at Dignitas. (She’s anonymous because she could be prosecuted for this.)

My aim: that everyone should be able to have a good death (Acceptable to all)

Monsignor Éric de Moulins-Beaufort, the Catholic Archbishop of Reims in France

My first aim: society’s position on assisted dying cannot be based on the autonomy of the person concerned; it must also be based on that person’s web of relationships. (Four objections)

My second aim: For believers the position on AD should reflect the caring nature of the church and the consent of the hierarchy of the church should be sought. (Two objections)

What did we learn?
The two people who took on the role of the Montsignor were faithful to the tenets of the Catholic church and were responsible for many of the objections. As a result, we reached less agreement than we have with other topics.

Nonetheless, taking stock a couple of weeks on, more common ground is discernible than was apparent during the event. Some of it lies within the notion of a protective framework to which both Diana Rigg and Sharon Danley refer. Such a framework has the potential to meet several of the aims: Jane Campbell’s concern about coercion; Sharon’s worry about those lacking mental capacity; and the Montsignor’s about the need to involve a person’s “web of relationships”.

I’m less certain about this next point, as it’s a deeper issue on which we spent little time, but there may also be common ground in the nature and importance of a good life. Our material quoted Desmond Tutu, Archbishop of Cape Town in South Africa from 1986 to 1996, who said, “I revere the sanctity of life—but not at any cost … why exit in the fog of sedation when there’s the alternative of being alert and truly present with loved ones?”

In conclusion, it was evident that the Win-Win format struggles with a dogmatic character like the Montsignor, even on a role play basis. Inspired by Desmond Tutu, perhaps we’ll go for a pragmatic Anglican next time…