Assisted suicide debate

Assisted suicide debate

The Backbench Business Committee meets every week to consider requests for debates from any backbench Members of Parliament on any subject. The motion selected for debate on Tuesday concerned assisted suicide.

The proposed motion welcomed the Director of Public Prosecution’s Policy to Prosecutors in Respect of Cases of Encouraging or Assisting Suicide, which was published in February 2010. The policy identifies sixteen public interest factors in favour of prosecution. These include: victims under 18 years of age; or who did not have the capacity to reach an informed decision to commit suicide; had not reached a voluntary, clear, settled and informed decision to commit suicide; and had not clearly and unequivocally communicated his or her decision to commit suicide to the suspect. Other factors include: the suspect was not wholly motivated by compassion; or pressured the victim to commit suicide; did not take reasonable steps to ensure that any other person had not pressured the victim to commit suicide; or had a history of violence or abuse against the victim.

The six public interest factors against prosecution, listed in the Policy, include: the victim had reached a voluntary, clear, settled and informed decision to commit suicide; the suspect was wholly motivated by compassion; and the actions of the suspect, although sufficient to come within the definition of the crime, were of only minor encouragement or assistance. DPP Keir Starmer stressed that the policy does not in any way decriminalise the offence of encouraging or assisting suicide, and nothing in the Policy can be taken to amount to an assurance that a person will not be prosecuted if he or she does an act that encourages or assists the suicide or the attempted suicide of another person.
Opening the debate, Conservative MP Richard Ottaway acknowledged it is a sensitive area of law which evokes deep emotions. Labour MP Dame Joan Ruddock introduced her amendment inviting the government to consult on whether to put the DPP’s guidance on a statutory basis. Another amendment, supported by more than 85 MPs, called for “further development of specialist palliative care and hospice provision.”

Conservative MP Guy Opperman used the debate to call for a full consultation on legalising assisted suicide. Fellow Conservative Edward Leigh said he was “opposed to euthanasia in any shape or form” but regarded the guidelines as “a fair compromise.”

Frank Field (Lab) expressed a note of dissent. He said: “Member after Member has risen to congratulate the House on the quality of the debate…I think there has been a considerable amount of cant and deceit…This has been the debate that dare not enter its name on the Order Paper, as it is, in fact, a debate about euthanasia.”

Caroline Lucas (Green) said: “I welcome the clarification provided by the DPP’s guidelines. There is no doubt that those who maliciously or irresponsibly encourage suicide should be prosecuted, and I do not think that anyone is saying otherwise. However, it is not in the public interest to prosecute a normally law-abiding citizen who, out of love and compassion, helps a loved one to die.”

Jacob Rees-Mogg (Con) said: “I start as a Catholic, and I believe that human life is sacred…We have to legislate for the weak and vulnerable, and for those who have nobody to defend them… What about those who feel that they have become a burden to society? My greatest concern (is) for the elderly and the frail.”

After a long, passionate and emotional debate it was Resolved, without division, “That this House welcomes the Director of Public Prosecution’s Policy to Prosecutors in Respect of Cases of Encouraging or Assisting Suicide, published in February 2010, and encourages further development of specialist palliative care and hospice provision.” This parliamentary endorsement of the guidelines is likely to be seen as providing further reassurance to those who travel abroad with loved ones so that they can end their lives.

This post was written by:

- who has written 462 posts on Upper Case – The Anya Legal Journal.

Mike Gribbin is a retired Civil Servant with wide experience, including the drafting and implementation of Parliamentary legislation and regulations. He is the editor of “Criminal Offences Handbook”, a uniquely comprehensive guide to more than one thousand ways to fall foul of UK criminal law. He is Editor of the Upper Case Legal Journal and has been writing blog posts for the past eight years.

Contact the author

More articles in this category:

Leave a Reply

Be first to get Legal News

Full Name
Email *
Enter the following to confirm your subscription *
advert

Follow Us on Twitter


Archives

Article Categories

Tags

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