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Daniel James

more: Press Releases, Disability, Press Releases/Disability

9th December 2008

Care Not Killing comments on Director of Public Prosecutions' decision...

No charges are to be brought against the parents of a paralysed rugby player who died in a Swiss assisted suicide facility. Mark and Julie James have been investigated by West Mercia police after the death of their son Daniel, 23, of Worcester on 12 September.

The Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer QC, said today that there was 'sufficient evidence' to prosecute but that charging the couple would not be in the 'public interest'.

Suicide is not illegal in Britain but assisting suicide is against the law. However, prosecutions are only brought if the Director of Public Prosecutions rules that there is both sufficient evidence to prosecute and that doing so would be in the public interest.

This is a desperately sad case that has attracted a huge amount of media attention. It is not unusual for a young person paralysed following serious injury to go through a very dark time, suffer from clinical depression and even want to commit suicide. However, with the right kind of encouragement and support, and with good role models, the vast majority will come through it, find meaning and purpose and learn to live with severe disability.

There are about 20,000 people with tetraplegia (paralysis of all four limbs) in Britain but cases with this tragic outcome are extremely rare. Our key priority must be to ensure the best possible care for people like Daniel.

It is unfortunate that so much media attention has been given to this case as it creates false impression that it is common not to be able to find meaning, purpose and hope in life if one has a severe disability. It is essential that more media coverage is given to the excellent facilities available in this country for disabled people and that role models who have come through these traumatic experiences with a positive outlook on life are given more media opportunities.

The law against assisted suicide exists to protect vulnerable people from exploitation and abuse and any weakening of it would inevitably place pressure on people with disability, depression, or terminal or chronic illness to contemplate early death so as not to be a burden upon families, carers or the cash-strapped health service. The right response is for us to invest more in prevention and care, and to ensure that laws protecting vulnerable people remain in place.

Care Not Killing

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