Friday, September 25, 2009

Churches fear guide on assisted suicide will undermine law

From the Church Times-

CHURCH spokesmen gave a guarded welcome to the guidance on assisted suicide issued by the Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer QC, on Wednesday. They expressed a fear that the law would be eroded, however.

Mr Starmer maintained that helping somebody to commit suicide remained a criminal act. But in response to a request from the House of Lords after the Deborah Purdy case, he published the factors that he would take into account when deciding whether to prosecute. He also launched a three-month public consultation.

Mr Starmer said that he could not assure people in advance that they would not be prosecuted. Nothing in his new guidelines, The Interim Policy for Prosecutors in Respect of Cases of Assisted Suicide, gave that assurance. Assisting suicide was still a crime, with a maximum penalty of 14 years’ imprisonment.

Nor did his guidelines cover euthanasia, he said. To cause the death of someone who wanted to commit suicide but could not was murder or manslaughter.

The eight factors that would have the strongest influence on concluding not to prosecute a suspect were that “the victim had a clear, settled and informed wish to commit suicide”; and that he or she had indicated that wish “unequivocally” to the suspect.

The victim should also have an illness from which there was no possibility of recovery. The suspect, a close relative or partner, should be wholly motivated by compassion.

Other factors were that the suspect had sought to dissuade the victim; and that the victim had already tried to commit suicide.

“The actions of the suspect may be characterised as reluctance in the face of a determined wish on the part of the victim to commit suicide.”

More here-

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