Writing in today\’s Observer, Baroness Warnock, a leading expert in medical ethics, backs a change to the law, which currently leaves someone who assists in the suicide of a friend or loved one liable to up to 14 years in prison.
Yes, this is true, it does.
Although the current law is clear that assisting someone to die is illegal, the director of public prosecutions, Keir Starmer, has produced guidelines to clarify when an individual might not face prosecution. These suggest that relatives acting on compassionate grounds are unlikely to go to jail, but those acting in a professional capacity, such as doctors or nurses, are much more likely to face charges.
Quite, and we have a system that deals with this problem.
For we do in fact want a system that sorts through the various cases. At one end of the spectrum there\’s someone topping Granny for the house and the inheritance. At the other end there\’s that bolus of morphine that shortens a horribly painful life by a day or two.
We\’d like then first to go to jail and the second to face an investigation and then to let it lie.
After his death his parents contacted police to admit that they had helped him achieve his wish to end \”a second-class existence\” by taking him abroad – despite praying to the last, and urging him to change his mind. The police had to investigate and the Jameses underwent three hour-long interviews each by officers days after their son\’s funeral. The case against them was eventually dropped.
Quite. Talking to coppers for three hours isn\’t everyone\’s cup of tea but it seems a fair enough price to pay having taken that momentous decision to aid another in taking their life.
You know, so that we can sort through the Type A cases and the Type B?
Another way of putting this is that we\’ve a system in place already. Police investigation, decision of DPP on whether to prosecute or not, trial by a jury of peers.
Why do we need to change the law?