Thursday, 24 September 2009

Finally, the DPP has spoken

As a student that studied an ethics module during the second year of my law degree, I welcome the clarification on assisted suicide from the DPP, Keir Starmer QC. While I can see both sides of the assisted suicide debate, and realise it is a sensitive topic, I think it is a relief to those who seek clarification. Relatives and/or close friends need no longer live in fear of a possible prosecution, providing that they satisfy a minimum of 7 criteria laid out in the new guidelines, which come into effect immediately.

The DPP has laid out a number of factors to be taken into consideration when deciding whether or not to prosecute those assisting the ending of life. Seven out of thirteen would weigh against a prosecution. “If people comply with these seven, they will not and cannot be prosecuted.” What is also interesting, is that the medical profession will be bound by the new guidelines, some of which are as follows:

Factors against prosecution (taken from here)

*Victim had “clear, settled and informed wish” to commit suicide

*Victim indicated unequivocally to the suspect that he or she wished to commit suicide

*Victim asked personally on his or her own initiative for the assistance of the suspect

*Victim had terminal illness, severe and incurable physical disability or severe degenerative physical condition for which there was no cure

*Suspect was wholly motivated by compassion

*Suspect was spouse, partner, close relative or close personal friend of the victim, within the context of a long-term and supportive relationship

*Actions of the suspect were only of minor assistance or influence or the help provided was as a consequence of their usual lawful employment.

*Victim was physically unable to undertake the act that amounted to “help” in committing suicide

*Suspect had sought to dissuade victim

*Victim had tried before to commit suicide

While this is a good and positive start, I think that Parliament definitely need to legislate on this area of law. Sarah Wootton, head of Dignity in Dying says it more succintly than I:

“The overwhelming majority of us do not want to see people prosecuted when they have reacted compassionately to a loved one’s request for help to die. Ultimately we need a law to allow terminally ill, mentally competent adults the choice of an assisted death within strict legal safeguards.”

So, what do you think? Has the DPP gone far enough? Too far?

Until next time,
Dottie xx

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