Assisted dying

I know that this is a very difficult issue, where people on both sides of the debate have strong and deeply-held views, informed by hard cases and, often, their own personal experiences.


As you will know, assisting or encouraging suicide is a criminal offence under Section 2 of the Suicide Act 1961. While the Director of Public Prosecutions has published guidelines to advise the Crown Prosecution Service about the factors which they need to consider when deciding whether it is in the public interest to prosecute a person for assisting a suicide, these guidelines have not changed the law, and assisted suicide has not been decriminalised.


While I recognise that the law in its current form is not perfect, I do not believe in decriminalising or legalising assisted suicide. The lives of the terminally ill, the frail, and those with incurable conditions are of equal value to anyone else’s, and they deserve legal protection.


Legalising assisted suicide would imply a legal recognition that some lives are not worth living, and that in those cases it is a rational act to commit suicide, which I believe would set a dangerous precedent. I know that many disability rights campaigners, for example, are concerned that legalisation would lead to disabled people being pressured into assisted suicide; and a majority of people in both Washington and Oregon who die by assisted suicide report fear of being a ‘burden’ as a reason for requesting assisted death.


The most recent debate on specific legislative proposals relating to this issue was in 2015, when the Assisted Dying (No.2) Bill was rejected by 330 votes to 118 in a free vote. I do not believe, therefore, that the issue should be revisited in Parliament at this time.