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UK Publishes New Rules for Assisted Suicide

UK Publishes New Rules for Assisted Suicide

Author Terry Pratchett stands outside the Houses of Parliament, London, after it was announced that new guidelines on assisting suicide will place closer scrutiny on the motivation of the suspect Thursday Feb. 25, 2010.

Associated Press/AP Online

February 26, 2010

He said other factors would also make criminal charges less likely, including victims who had made a voluntary and informed decision to end their lives, suspects who reported the suicide to police and admitted their role, and cases where a suspect tried in vain to convince the victim not to choose suicide.

Other mitigating factors that might make prosecution less likely include instances where the suspect provided only minor help in the suicide or was reluctant to provide assistance but did so in the face of persistent demands.

Still, Starmer stressed that prosecution is possible even if all of these factors apply. He also listed 16 factors that would make criminal action more probable, including cases where the victim was under 18, did not have the capacity to make an informed decision to end their life or had been pressured by the suspect to commit suicide.

Prosecution would also be more likely in cases where the suspect had been guilty of violence or abuse toward the victim or when the victim did not seek the help of the suspect in the suicide.

In addition, earlier guidance that prosecution was less likely if a suspect was a family member or close friend of the victim was eliminated from Thursday’s rules.

Richard Hawkes, the chief executive of Scope, a charity that works with the disabled, said the new guidelines threaten society’s most vulnerable people.

“We do not support any weakening of the protection offered under the law on assisted suicide, which is exactly what these new guidelines do,” Hawkes said.

“Many disabled people are frightened by the consequences of these new guidelines and with good reason. There is a real danger these changes will result in disabled people being pressured to end their lives,” he added.

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