Sunday, October 25, 2009

Right to die in England

There has been some interim resolution of the continued debate in England about whether those who assist a terminally ill relative who wishes to commit suicide, in particular by accompanying them to a clinic in Switzerland, will face prosecution. The current resolution is, it's still illegal, but guidelines have been issued to give some legal safety.
Campaigners win the fight to legalise assisted suicide
Assisted suicide investigations will focus on who stood to benefit

"People who stand to benefit financially from a person’s death are likely to be the ones prosecuted for assisting a suicide, under guidelines to be issued this week. "...

"The policy...will aim to clarify when individuals are more likely to be prosecuted or more likely not to be, he said.
Mr Starmer told the Andrew Marr Show on BBC One that such factors will include whether the person has a clear and settled intention to commit suicide, whether they have been encouraged or just assisted to do so, and whether those helping them have anything to gain from their death."

..."As many as 115 people from Britain have gone to Dignitas, the Swiss clinic, to die, but no one has been prosecuted so far. Last month Mr Starmer said that the landmark guidelines would apply in the UK as well as overseas.
Under current legislation, those who “aid, abet, counsel or procure” someone else’s suicide can be prosecuted and jailed for up to 14 years. Ms Purdy, from Undercliffe in Bradford, West Yorkshire, wants to know what would happen to her Cuban husband, Omar Puente, if he helped her to travel abroad to end her life. She took her case to the Lords after the High Court and Court of Appeal held that it was for Parliament, not the courts, to change the law.
The Lords agreed that changes were a matter for Parliament, but upheld Ms Purdy’s argument that the DPP should put in writing the factors he regarded as relevant in deciding whether or not to prosecute."

The guidelines, which were issued on schedule, drew a predictably wide range of reactions, some of which can be found at the end of this story in the Times: Assisted suicide guidelines do not give immunity against prosecution, says DPP

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