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Guidelines mean that you can have a DIY assisted suicide, but not a professional one

BMJ 2012; 344 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.e2592 (Published 05 April 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e2592
  1. Clare Dyer
  1. 1BMJ

Only if assisted suicide is legalised and regulated can society have any confidence that it is not being abused, a leading human rights lawyer argued in a debate organised by the Law Society and the Huffington Post in central London on 3 April.

Paul Bowen QC represented Debbie Purdy, who has multiple sclerosis, in the court case that led the director of public prosecutions (DPP) to issue guidelines stating that family members or friends who assist a suicide with compassionate motives will not normally be prosecuted.

The guidance makes it clear that doctors or other healthcare professionals who help a patient to die will be at greater risk of prosecution for assisting a suicide, a crime that carries a maximum sentence of 14 years in prison.

But Mr Bowen, who was standing in for …

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