Sunday, November 15, 2009

Britain and Assisted Suicide.

This summer Debbie Purdy won her case in the British courts to ensure that her husband would not be prosecuted if he helped her to leave the country to end her life. Purdy is a multiple sclerosis patient; her case has caused the Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer, to draft revisions to the laws regarding assisted suicide. But the revision is meeting with strong opposition from lawyers, former lords and parliament. A group of like-minded players has come together to write a lengthy brief to the DPP strongly opposing the DPPS revisions. From the Telegraph:

In September, he published a list of factors to help lawyers to decide whether to prosecute people for assisting suicide. The rules have been interpreted by some campaigners as a way of “legalising” assisted suicide.

The DPP has now launched a consultion on the guidance which says that families who help terminally ill loved ones to end their lives are unlikely to face prosecution as long as they do not encourage them and assist only a clear and settled intention to die.

But the group - which also includes Lord Walton of Detchant, Professor Sheila Hollins, a former President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists and Baroness Campbell of Surbiton - says the new guidance is “not fit for purpose”.

The group has signed up to a hard-hitting response to the proposals from campaign group Care Not Killing, in which it warns that changes to the law could mean that the lives of stroke-sufferers, disabled people and those with arthritis, could be at risk.

It says: “Among the factors proposed as tending against prosecution are that the deceased was seriously ill or incurably disabled or had a history of suicide attempts. In Care Not Killing’s view these proposals are discriminatory as well as dangerous.”


In all, 11 of the 29 specific criteria proposed for deciding whether to prosecute or not to prosecute were judged to be “unacceptable in any circumstances”.

Dr Saunders added: “We recognise the attempt that the DPP has made to carry out a very difficult remit given to him by the Law Lords, and there are several aspects of the guidelines that we can support.

“But current guidelines adopt, however unwittingly, the political assumptions of the pro-euthanasia lobby, that assisted suicide will not be prosecuted if the right boxes are ticked.”

The group suggested that the guidance “should start with a clear statement that assisting a suicide is a criminal offence and that, in the absence of a decision by Parliament to change the law, it will remain so”.

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