By Alex Bush
LONDON, UK, June 5, 2009 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Lord Falconer of Thoroton has tabled an amendment to the Coroners and Justice Bill that would make it legal to assist a person to leave the country to commit suicide. Presently, it is illegal for someone to assist another to commit suicide, even if done out of the country. The law, however, is generally not enforced because it “is not in the public interest,” according to Sir Ken Macdonald, former Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).
Numerous U.K. residents have in recent years travelled to Switzerland, where assisted suicide is legal, to commit suicide with the help of the suicide group Dignitas. While a number of investigations have been initiated against relatives who have travelled with the person who was committing suicide, none have resulted in charges being laid.
Lord Alton of Liverpool, however, said that the bill “marks the beginning of the creation of a death cult. It is not the terminally-ill but the perfectly healthy we are talking about,” referencing the fact that Dignitas is willing to assist the suicide even of those who are merely depressed and not suffering any physical illness.
Falconer, on the other hand, argued that some people, fearing the unenforced law, leave the country to commit suicide “alone.” “They go early. And they die in the hands of strangers.” He claimed that the current law “only works because of the good sense of the DPP [not to prosecute offenders].”
“The amendment I am tabling to the Coroners and Justice Bill does not make it an easier for people to go to Switzerland to die in a Dignitas clinic,” he said, “they can already do this. Rather, it is making sure that the law reflects the sensible position adopted to date by the courts and the DPP, while protecting people from abuse.”
But Alton continued to blast the amendment, calling it the “classic thin edge of the wedge,” since this is “the third time we have had an attempt to legislate in this way in this Parliament.”
“The medical bodies - the British Medical Association and the royal colleges - remain opposed to any change. They know it would change irreversibly the medical profession if doctors and nurses have to become destroyers of life rather than defenders,” Alton said.
The Archbishop Peter Smith of Cardiff also condemned the amendment, saying that “Legalising assistance with suicide is morally wrong in itself and would put vulnerable people at grave risk.”
“Furthermore, to attempt to bring it about by tagging an amendment on to a government Bill designed for completely different purposes is a totally inappropriate way of seeking to legislate on such a serious matter,” the archbishop said.