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News – Assisted suicide

November 2009

Assisted suicide

 

A watering-down of guidelines around assisted suicide legislation is causing deep concern by anti-euthanasia groups in the UK.

     The Department of Public Prosecution (DPP) was ordered in September to revisit the guidelines around assisted suicide and factors that might weight against prosecution of family members who help their loved ones to die.

     This followed a successful appeal by Mrs Debbie Purdey against the High Court and Court of Appeal’s decisions that upheld the right to prosecute those who help their family members to go abroad to Swiss clinic Dignitas to die.

     The interim guidelines have been watered down, whereby each case may be considered on its own merit, and family members may not be prosecuted. The guidelines have not become fully established policy, but the implications have worried Christian groups.

     Andrea Minichiello Williams, executive director of the Christian Legal Centre, said: ‘We believe that all life should be protected in law and that the guidelines published today will cause great harm to individuals and society.

     ‘We should learn from other jurisdictions where assisted suicide has been legalised. We are concerned that the system will be open to abuse and to a creeping, ever-widening application, which has been observed in previous cases in our own legal history where laws have been injudiciously liberalised’.

     A statement from Care Not Killing added: ‘We are concerned to ensure that the guidelines do not, in any way, alter the current law or weaken its effectiveness.

            ‘Such a change in practice would be directly contrary to the expressed will of Parliament and would inevitably place subtle pressure on vulnerable people to request early death so as not to be a burden to family, carers or the state’.

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