Observations Assisted Suicide

The law as it stands on assisted suicide could not be clearer

BMJ 2009; 339 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.b3169 (Published 05 August 2009) Cite this as: BMJ 2009;339:b3169
  1. Alex Carlile, barrister and Liberal Democrat peer (Lord Carlile of Berriew)
  1. carlileqc{at}aol.com

    Assisting suicide must remain a crime in order to deter the malicious and protect the vulnerable

    Clare Dyer’s recent feature article (BMJ 2009;339:b2868, doi:10.1136/bmj.b2868) attempts to make Lord Falconer’s case for changing the law to legalise assisting the suicides overseas of terminally ill British people. As an opponent of Lord Falconer’s proposed amendment to the Coroners and Justice Bill I would like to highlight some of its misconceptions.

    As the Court of Appeal made clear in its February judgment on the Purdy case (BMJ 2009;338:b742, doi:10.1136/bmj.b742), not all cases of assisted suicide involve “loved ones.” There is a darker side to this story as well. For example, in at least two well documented deaths at the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland the deceased people were not terminally ill.

    Of at least as great concern is that, if the law’s prohibition were removed, potential would be much increased for the coercion and manipulation of terminally ill people by relatives wanting to be rid of a care burden or anxious to inherit. Such abuse is not common, but it exists; and …

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