March 3, 2024

UK moves towards clarity on assisted suicide

Director of Public Prosecutions sets down conditions
Britons who
want to help ill or dying loved-ones commit suicide find it easier
now. The Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer, has clarified
when he will prosecute for assisted suicide. However, he insists that
this move in no way supports euthanasia.

development comes after the House of Lords backed calls for clarity
on whether people who help someone commit suicide should be

“There are
no guarantees against prosecution,” stated Mr Starmer, “and it is
my job to ensure that the most vulnerable people are protected while
at the same time giving enough information to those people… who
want to be able to make informed decisions about what actions they
may choose to take.”

He added that
“Assisting suicide has been a criminal offence for nearly 50 years
and my interim policy does nothing to change that.”

More than 100
Britons have killed themselves at the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland,
but, until now, friends or relatives who accompany them have not
known whether they will face prosecution when they return home.

Starmer outlined
public interest factors in favour of prosecution and 13 factors
against prosecution. He has called for comments from the public.

Some factors
in favour of prosecution include that the victim was under 18 and did
not ask personally on his or her own initiative for the assistance of
the suspect. Another factor in favour of prosecution is that a
relative "persuaded, pressured or maliciously encouraged the
victim to commit suicide".

against prosecution include that the victim had a "clear,
settled and informed wish to commit suicide" and that the victim
"indicated unequivocally to the suspect that he or she wished to
commit suicide".

Will the
guidelines result in more people committing assisted suicide? Mr
Starmer is unsure: "Only time will tell. It may do, it may not
do… Each case must be considered on its own facts and its own
merits. Prosecutors must decide the importance of each public
interest factor in the circumstances of each case and go on to make
an overall assessment.” ~ London
Telegraph, Sept 23