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Assisted Dying - Proposed Amendment Both Farcical and Tragic

more: Press Releases

21st March 2009

Patricia Hewitt MP and a handful of other MPs have tabled an amendment to the Government's Coroner's and Justice Bill

Patricia Hewitt MP and a handful of other MPs have tabled an amendment to the Government's Coroner's and Justice Bill (Report Stage 23 and 24 March) which, if accepted, would make it lawful for people to assist others to go abroad to commit suicide.

Commenting on the amendment, Dr Peter Saunders, Director of Care Not Killing, said: 'The Government is, commendably, trying to protect vulnerable people by tightening up the Suicide Act to outlaw internet websites that encourage suicide. And yet here we have the euthanasia lobby trying, at the same time and in the same bill, to encourage suicide by removing any risk of prosecution for anyone assisting someone to go abroad for euthanasia or assisted suicide. The result would be a law that discouraged suicide with one hand and encouraged it with the other. That would be farcical as well as tragic. '

'We have seen paraded in front of us in recent months a small number of individuals who are seriously determined to commit suicide and who go to Switzerland, with help from others, for that purpose. But these cases are not at all typical of what we would see if the law were to be changed. The law has an important deterrent effect and that means the cases we see are those involving resolute and self-confident people who haven't been coerced. But take away that deterrent and we would soon start to see cases of abuse and an opening of the floodgates.'

'We should heed the words of the Court of Appeal in its recent Judgement on the Purdy case. "Cases of assisted suicide, like all other criminal offences, vary hugely in their criminality. Not all cases are as sensitive as this one, and not all cases of assisted suicide represent the final act or acts of love or the culmination of a lifelong loving relationship." This proposed amendment would turn a rare exception into a rule and would put British citizens at the mercy of the very worst laws anywhere in the world. It would allow people in this country to assist someone to travel to countries offering euthanasia or assisted suicide for any and every reason regardless of safeguards'

'Make no mistake: this amendment is just a precursor to a more general euthanasia law. Its advocates have made no secret of their ambitions. But they have found that Parliament is rightly wary of legalising euthanasia. So now they are trying to get it through the back door by piggy-backing it onto much-needed legislation to protect vulnerable people from predatory internet websites. I hope and trust that MPs will be on their guard next week and see this amendment for what it really is, a cynical and disingenuous attempt to force the legalisation of assisted dying here.'

The amendment reads as follows:

New Clause:

Add the following to the Government's proposed amendments to Section 2 of the 1961 Suicide Act:

'An act by D is not to be treated as capable of encouraging or assisting the suicide or attempted suicide of another person (T) if 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'

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