Guidance for relatives in assisted suicide cases to be revealed

时间:2019-10-08 责任编辑:范撑 来源:合乐888首页 点击:278 次

People who wish to die through assisted suicide will this week have guidance for the first time on whether their partners, relatives or friends risk being prosecuted.

The director of public prosecutions, Keir Starmer, has drawn up an interim policy aimed at clarifying the law for people who want to die and are assisted by a "compassionate partner".

"This policy will cover assisted suicide wherever it takes place, including in England and Wales," Starmer told the Guardian. "It's a question of steering the right line between protecting the vulnerable, and not prosecuting in those cases where most members of the public would think it really isn't appropriate to prosecute."

In June, Starmer lost a legal challenge in the House of Lords brought by Debbie Purdy, who has multiple sclerosis. He said the guidance would be based on his approach to previous cases and be followed by public consultation next year.

Of the estimated 117 cases of assisted suicide abroad so far investigated, none has resulted in a prosecution. Assisting suicide carries a criminal sentence of up to 14 years in jail.

Last year, Starmer took the unprecedented step of publishing a detailed explanation of his decision not to prosecute the family of Daniel James, 23, a rugby player who ended his life at the Swiss clinic Dignitas with his mother's and father's help.

There was evidence to prosecute but Starmer decided not to, describing the death as a tragic case. "I've always said that if you read the Daniel James case, you'll get a sense of the way in which I'm going to approach these decisions," he said. "It's obvious some of the factors there in the case will be factors in other cases."

This revelation that the new guidance will follow this reasoning will reopen the debate over assisted suicide. Others still voice widely divergent views over the law.

Since the Lords ruled in favour of Purdy in June, the senior law lord and soon-to-be president of the UK's new supreme court, Lord Phillips, has expressed sympathy with people who travel abroad to die. "I have enormous sympathy with anyone who finds themselves facing a quite hideous termination of their life as a result of one of these horrible diseases, in deciding they would prefer to end their life more swiftly and avoid that death, as well as avoiding the pain and distress that might cause their relatives," Phillips said.

The justice secretary, Jack Straw, opposes legalising assisted suicide, expressing concern about the potential for abuse. Campaigners for assisted suicide emphasise that the guidance will not change the law but make the position clearer.

A spokesman for Dignity in Dying, which supported Purdy's case, said: "We are hoping that this will be a positive step and will give Debbie clarity about the kind of factors and situations which will encourage the [director of public prosecutions] to prosecute and which will not. We're hoping that for people in the situation of Debbie and [her husband] Omar it will be a helpful piece of prosecuting guidance."

A spokesman for Care Not Killing, which opposes any change in the law, said: "The law lords made it clear that it is for parliament and parliamentarians to legislate on this matter, but they felt the DPP needed to make the current position clearer so that people like Debbie Purdy know."

For the full Keir Starmer interview see tomorrow's G2