DAA News Network

Is the right to die becoming a duty to die?

Posted 28/6-09 at 18.32

Coroners and Justice Bill in House of Lords

This Bill is attempting to tighten up the Suicide Act to prevent the internet promotion of suicide. However, three amendments (173, 174, 177) have been laid by Lords Falconer, Joffe and Alderdice to legalise assisted suicide for the terminally ill. Lord Falconer's amendment (see below) specifically attempts to legalise support for those travelling abroad for assisted suicide.


According to a Guardian article on June 22, many who have gone to die at the Swiss suicide organisation, Dignitas, were not terminally ill. Doctors leaders expressed serious concerns. While most of the conditions could contribute to a patient's death, equally people with many of them - such as Aids, cancer, rheumatoid arthritis and tetraplegia - could, with the right treatment, lead fulfilling lives. "NHS palliative care was too often "rather patchy", said Professor Steve Field, chairman of the Royal College of General Practitioners, who was "worried" that not all the 114 patients may have been aware of treatments that could have prolonged their lives. Dr John Saunders, chair of the Royal College of Physicians' ethics committee, said: "The conditions are so varied that it suggests that Dignitas is not undertaking the adequate medical assessment [of patients seeking its help] that might be expected. The list does suggest that Dignitas is cavalier in arranging for people to end their lives." Interestingly, the Swiss Government, alarmed about the activities of Dignitas, is considering banning it.

British Medical Association Annual Representative Meeting Care

Not Killing reports that seven motions (numbered 370 and 370a-f), due to be discussed in the Medical Ethics Section at 1025-1115 on Wednesday 1st July, call for the BMA ARM to support a change in the law to legalise ‘assisted death' or ‘assisted dying' - meaning either assisted suicide or euthanasia. In June 2006 the BMA voted by a large majority to oppose any change of the law to allow assisted suicide and euthanasia and this has ever since been the settled position of the association. It is to be hoped that the rising costs of keeping people alive and fears of the general public on NHS treatment will not result in a change of view.

Go to our Bioethics pages on our website to learn more about this assisted suicide debate.


Lord Faulkner's amendment

Acts not capable of encouraging or assisting

Acts not capable of encouraging or assisting (1) An act by an individual ("D") is not to be treated as capable of encouraging or assisting the suicide or attempted suicide of another adult ("T") if-

(a) the act is done solely or principally for the purpose of enabling or assisting T to travel to a country or territory in which assisted dying is lawful;

(b) prior to the act, two registered medical practitioners, independent of each other, have certified that they are of the opinion in good faith that T is terminally ill and has the capacity to make the declaration under subsection (2); and

(c) prior to the act, T has made a declaration under subsection (2).

(2) A declaration by T is made under this subsection if the declaration-

(a) is made freely in writing and is signed by T (or is otherwise recorded and authenticated if T is incapable of signing it),

(b) states that T- (i) has read or been informed of the contents of the certificates under subclause (1)(b) and (ii) has decided to travel to a country or territory falling within subsection (1)(a) for the purpose of obtaining assistance in dying, and (c) is witnessed by an independent witness chosen by T.


(3) "Independent witness" means a person who is not-

(i) likely to obtain any benefit from the death of T; or

(ii) a close relative or friend of T; or

(iii) involved in caring for T.

(4) D is not to be treated as having done an act capable of encouraging or assisting the suicide or attempted suicide of T by virtue of being with T when, in a country or territory falling within subsection

(1)(a), T takes steps (including steps taken with the assistance of D) to commit suicide by lawful means.







No comments registered

Add your comment:

Written by: