DAA News Network

To be or Not to Be – That is the Question

Posted 01/5-09 at 17.15

Last month, former Health Secretary of State, Patricia Hewitt, tabled an amendment to the Coroners and Justice Bill. If law the ammendment would protect from prosecution people who take terminally ill patients abroad for assisted suicide. As it turned out the amendment was not debated during the bill’s time in the House of Commons, but the issue will be revisited in the House of Lords.

Of the 100 or so people who have gone to the Dignitas clinic in Zurich, Switzerland, (where assisted suicide is legal for an assisted death), no friend or relative has been prosecuted, although many have been interviewed by the police. The Director of Public Prosecutions has now made it clear he would not normally prosecute somebody simply for accompanying a friend or a relative to Switzerland for an assisted death.

“I welcome that, but it is still discretionary and what’s given by discretion can be taken away by discretion,”  Ms Hewitt told the Health Service Journal (www.hsj.co.uk). “I think this is a matter on which Parliament should decide and Parliament should be giving statutory force to that policy. In the longer term I would also like to see the law changed to permit assisted death here in the UK.”

Judges also give suspended sentences to families who kill a disabled member from so called ‘mercy’ – a discretionary response to what would otherwise be considered murder.

Recent reports have shown that disabled people are receiving treatment that is killing them (see our newsletters March and April), or are given Do Not Resuscitate Notices without their permission.

Many of the public, including 68% of doctors, believe that people should be given complete palliative care instead of legalising assisted suicide.  Palliative care which ensures that people die peacefully and with dignity – not with Dignitas, in a foreign place and unfamiliar surroundings.

For more facts go to:

‘Assisted Suicide, a fitting end’ in the HSJ

Articles in our Bioethics section of this website.



Do tell us your views on this – we would really like to hear from you.



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