BBC BLOGS - Have Your Say
« Previous | Main | Next »

Are assisted suicide guidelines enough?

10:51 UK time, Thursday, 25 February 2010

New guidance has been issued to clarify the law on assisted suicide in England and Wales. What is your reaction?

The new guidelines, published by the Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer, set out a range of factors to be taken into account when deciding whether or not to prosecute.

The guidance is not about changing the law; assisted suicide is illegal and carries a jail term of up to 14 years.

This debate has now been closed. Thank you for your comments.

Have you been affected by the issues in this story? What do you think of the new guidelines? Should assisted suicide be made legal?

Comments

Page 1 of 2

  • Comment number 1.

    This is a welcome development. There are times when assisting a terminally ill person to kill themselves is the kindest thing to do, but it's also important to guard against abusing the system. I think keeping it illegal but having clear guidelines on when prosecutions will not take place steers a sensible course through what are undoubtedly troubled waters.

  • Comment number 2.

    Yet more tinkering with the law.

    Either admit there is a problem with the law, which most reasonable people would agree, and rewrite it to reflect modern times and opinions or leave it alone.

    All this tinkering will probably lead to more compensation claims courtesy of EU Human Rights nonsense.

  • Comment number 3.

    Good on them for facing up to the issue. There is a need for an intelligent debate on this and so many other issues. It was time to do this. For me, it can only be a good thing.

  • Comment number 4.

    Obviously, it's better to kill yourself before you need help to do it. Being illogical, however, most people don't want to die until they need help.

  • Comment number 5.

    More weasel words from the lawyers propping up the fanatical Christians who run the country. This law is a disgrace to the human race and shows that the human rights act is just a guilt trip about racism as ever. What legal system has the right to force me to live in hell?

  • Comment number 6.

    With proper safeguards, assisted suicide should be an option for those that want it. We should be allowed to decide for ourselves when our life has come to an end. Who's life is it anyway?

  • Comment number 7.

    Those people who do not agree with their findings (of euthenasia public opinion polls) often criticise the wording of these polls. But, not even people who are against assisted dying can produce opinion poll results which are against voluntary euthanasia. In 1987, the British Section of the World Federation of Doctors Who Respect Human Life, who do not agree with voluntary euthanasia because of their religious beliefs, carried out a MORI poll. Overall, 72% of those surveyed said that voluntary euthanasia should be made legal.

    Source: http://www.worldrtd.net/node/184


    We have opinion polls carried out every few years in relation to this subject, every time they bring back an overwhelming result showing that the majority of British people want to see the law changed to allow Assisted Suicide to be made legal.

    At least the Director of Public Prosecutions listens to the opinions of the British people, even if our elected representatives do not.

    And before the usual bunch come on here with their "thin end of the wedge argument", assisted suicide has been legal in Switzerland since the 1940's yet they only have about 400 cases a year, including around 130 patients who come from other countries.
    If the Swiss can run a system for so long without it leading to financially motivated murder by family members or the State then I see no reason why the situation should be any different in the UK, they have suitable systems in place to protect the vulnerable and there is no reason we can't adopt the same systems here.

  • Comment number 8.

    The guidelines are better than what we had before, but the fact that assisted suicide has been made illegal, rather than a suitable legal framework for assisted suicide having been created, shows there's still a way to go on this issue.

  • Comment number 9.

    I think this is good news, but a small dose thereof. It feels more like a diplomatic gesture than development.

    I watched my father die a slow and painful death a few months ago. The last week of his life shouldn't have happened, and I feel that the current laws failed him - it was known to us that he had every intention of going to Dignitas before he reached that stage and would have done so had he not taken an unpredicted turn for the worst. I thought long and hard about putting a pillow over his face and the only guilt I feel is for not having the guts to do so. The law failed us all.

  • Comment number 10.

    It's all a big fudge because no one in power has the balls to acknowledge that we all own our own lives and can end them if we want - in any way we want (provided it doesn't physically harm others or make my train late). It should be treated like terminations before birth: Two doctors (or some newly-created responsible group if doctor's cant do it due to Hippocratic oaths) should be consulted - and if they agree that the person is of sound mind, then anyone should be allowed to help/support the suicidee - even if the suicidee could physically do it themselves.

  • Comment number 11.

    This is probably the best balance between compassion and safegaurds. Any change in the law is only as good as the range of situations that could be forseen and risks providing loopholes that can be exploited by the unscrupulous. At least this gives some scope for common sense to prevail.

  • Comment number 12.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 13.

    No. There should be a clause that stops people who want to help people die making money out of that persons death. Old people are still going have pressure put on them by greedy family members to kill themselves so they don't have to sell houses to pay for care.

  • Comment number 14.

    You need a lot more than just guidlines on such a serious issue. Anyone could end someones life for their own financial gain. I think to be safe, you need a living will by the patient written and witnessed by two unrelated people.There should also be stringent rules regarding the doctors attending.

  • Comment number 15.

    I am expected to live responsibly and with dignity. I can assure you that I will die the same way. No amount of "clarification" from the DPP or legislation will alter this. My life is my own and does NOT belong to the state, a charity, an action group or any other campaigner who wishes to inflict their moral code upon me. If or when I choose to end it...I will. End of!

  • Comment number 16.

    #2 wrote: "Yet more tinkering with the law."

    No, this is not tinkering with the law, it is clarifying what is a very difficult law to understand. It is still illegal in law to help someone to die. However, hopefully, this clarification will help anyone during what is a very emotional time for themselves and their families.

  • Comment number 17.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 18.

    We still need to keep it illegal to stop abuse. I've said this before on other posts, but when abortion was made legal nobody could have foreseen that 40 years later over 250,000 terminations would be carried out every year, for the most trivial of reasons. Of course the original law was passed to be used in extreme cases where rape or profound disability or life-threatening conditions made the pregnancy non-viable, but nowadays abortion is easy and common even for perfectly normal, healthy foetuses. The guidelines and safeguards were eroded over time in the name of 'choice' for the woman. How can we possibly say that in 40 years' time we won't be carting perfectly healthy old people off to the clinic because they're 'an inconvenience', or 'it's not the right time' or 'I've already got 2 grandparents and I don't want any more'! Just because this hasn't in Switzerland does not mean it can't happen here. Abortion is legal in other countries too and they don't have anything like the number that we have in the UK. Drink is dirt cheap in France and they don't have problems with drunken louts to the same extent that we do over here. We are not a nice society and we don't need any more laws that help us to be worse.

  • Comment number 19.

    "The suspect was wholly motivated by compassion". This is a bit like "reasonable force". However is anyone to prove (or disprove) 'compassion'? Faith reasons aside, I make no apology for not supporting suicide as a way-out. I've seen the effect a family member's suicide had on their immediate family, not to mention the rest of us. There are ways to treat unbearable pain.
    I find this (possibly well-intentioned)'clarification' unhelpful. Why can't it have been left that assisting suicide for any reason is manslaughter? All that seems to have been achieved is to introduce yet more if's, but's & maybe's into an already confused issue.

  • Comment number 20.

    If I become so ill, incapable and in pain that I find life intolerable, I shall take my own life if I'm able to do so. If I can't do it myself my husband will do it for me and I will do the same for him.

    I don't give a monkeys what the law says. It's our life and we will do with it what we please. Other people must do what's right for them; we will do what's right for us.

  • Comment number 21.

    I do not agree with Assisted suicide, but i do agree with a persons right to refuse medical assistance. If you are incapable of making that choice then it should not be made for you. I do agree with a living will I believe the law should require that those wishing to declare thier wishes should do so in the presence of a solicitor and following a evaluation by a mental health professional, why? well there are lots of not very nice people out there that would convince poor old granny that now she has broke her hip she is a burden and thier life would be better without having to take care of her. Sad but true and to protect that one indevidual we should ensure that the legal guidelines are as strict as possible to avoid the vunerable being abused.

  • Comment number 22.

    To use or encourage assisted suicide in any way form or method of not charging someone for having altruistic motives is the beginning of a slippery slope.

    Remember 40 years ago an abortion bill which only allowed very few distressed women to have abortions. Now we have abortion on demand.

    If this issue goes at the same speed by the time people who are our young today, hit 65 the day after will be your painless self-destruction day.

  • Comment number 23.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 24.

    I think that in these days of cheap film recording and the like, a trip to the local council office where someone who is terminally ill can both be video recorded clearly stating they wish to persue euthanasia and sign a document to that effect, should suffice in stopping a prosecution in its tracks. Naturally some kind of background check should be in place to ensure the person in question is either terminally ill or suffering unbearable pain (from their GP) within seven days before the green light is given.

    In the case of coma patients, I'd recommend guidelines clearly indicating that, for example, within seven days of a diagnosis stating that the person has fallen into an irrecoverable coma, euthanasia can be considered a viable option without prosecution.

  • Comment number 25.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 26.

    I think we need to separate our own personal view from those we are willing to impose on others. My moral stance means that I am against taking any life (including my own) but I am also a strong believer in compassion.

    If someone has a different view on suicide / assisted suicide then that is equally valid - even if I disagree with it. The important thing for society is to protect the innocent and vulnerable from any abuse.

  • Comment number 27.

    I get particularly angry about ‘palliative care’ professionals trying to impose their view on what we can and cannot do with our lives.

    Yep a few more tubes, a few more drugs and a bit of dice and slice and you probably can prolong my pain filled existence for a few more months … and, I bet, draw a good wage while doing so.

    They think they’re ‘Florence Nightingale’. ‘Victor Frankinstein’ would be a better analogy.

  • Comment number 28.

    I find it very strange it is the DPP giving these guidelines and not a government minister!

  • Comment number 29.

    Remember these are "guidelines" from the Director of Public Prosecutions, and there may be cases in the future where the DPP might deviate from them or rewrite them. I'm more worried about the people left behind. Nobody seems to have asked what the effect is on those who assist with a suicide. Do they spend the rest of their lives slightly depressed, wondering if they did the right thing?

  • Comment number 30.

    Well it's only fair that the laws which we are expected to adhere to are spelt out. Interesting about the "gain" element and constrasting with the "closeness" of the assistee. I mean, clearly If you were assisting your mother, you are quite possibly her heir aswell (reasonably so) How do they square that circle?

  • Comment number 31.

    I think its about time that some guidance has been introduced, and it will hopefully reduce the stress on anyone choosing to head to Switzerland and their family.

    Also this new format is horrible for HYS, and the number of comments on a topic is dramatically down.

  • Comment number 32.

    @Sapper

    It is the DPP that chooses to prosecute people or not, so he is stating what factors he is taking into account when making that decision.

  • Comment number 33.

    #27 Firstly these guidelines have been drawn up by the director for public prosecutions, not 'palliative care profesionals'

    Secondly doctors get paid the same if you live or die. Fortunately we aren't paying them on a performance basis. My father has been a cancer specialist for nearly 40 years and is probably in the top ten in the world in his field. He's paid just a little less than my sister in law who's been an accountant with Cadburys (the chocolate people) for ten years.

    Thirdly the usual HYS rant is to accuse docs of trying to kill us all either intentionally in order to free up beds/produce more organs for donation/meet targets or unintentionally because of MRSA. If nothing else your accusations make a nice change.

    Fourthly if a doctor does anything other than the best they can to save your life they'll be sued. If they overdose you with morphine they'll be charged with murder and even if not convicted will be struck off.

    and finally on a complete tangent Florence Nightingale was a wretched nurse. Mortality rates in Scutari Barracks (Turkey... Nightingale never went to the Crimea) went through the roof after she arrived. A sanitation committee of engineers from London removed a dead horse blocking the sewers and smashed some holes in the walls to allow fresh air in and should be credited with the success Nightingale gets. Mary Seacole (a half scottish half Jamacian nurse) who actually worked on the Battlefields of the Crimea should be the famous one.

  • Comment number 34.

    Phew ! Just in time for me to retire to no pension .

  • Comment number 35.

    28. At 2:53pm on 25 Feb 2010, sapper434 wrote:

    I find it very strange it is the DPP giving these guidelines and not a government minister!"

    Why is strange?

    The government pass the law, the department of public prosecutions enforce it. The DPP is exactly the right person to clarify when a case will or won't be prosecuted. If the law is changed then thats a government matter, but the law HASN'T been changed, just clarified a little.

  • Comment number 36.

    It's better than it was, but I still think some kind of pre-suicide assessment, like the panels proposed by Sir Terry Pratchett, would make it more straightforward and balanced.

    If uninvolved experts in medicine, law and ethics are agreed that the patient is genuine in the wish to end it all and is not being coerced then it would be legal to assist them to depart with dignity.

    Remember that the law has to encompass ALL opinions, faith-based and otherwise, because all of us believers and non-believers alike are required to obey the law. And also remember that just because it is permissible to do something, you are not obliged to do it - especially if that something is an act you believe to be morally wrong.

    You also have to remember those who might be asked to assist. Do they actually want to do so? It's bad enough making that choice for a pet and your dog cannot actually tell you he's had enough! A loved human being, even if asking to be helped out of this world, must be a terrible thing to behold, and to remember afterwards (whether you help or not). Medical professionals, also, must not be coerced into committing an assisted suicide - the effect on someone who's dedicated their life to helping may not feel this is the best way to assist the patient.

  • Comment number 37.

    This is good news for those people who want to go to Switzerland when they decide they no longer have a quality of life.

    However many of us fear becoming a 'living vegetable' through accidents or sudden illness and would like to be 'put out of our misery' and this ruling is a long way from helping with that.

  • Comment number 38.

    At the age of 66 I have come to realise my days could be numbered. I am not afraid of dying - just the way I die. I have a real dread of suffering a stroke or developing alzheimers; having had relatives with both, I do not wish to end my days in this way. It really is about time something is done to alleviate this worry from our minds. There are many ways safeguards could be built into preventing greedy relatives from pre-empting a person's right to die when things get too bad for a reasonable quality of life. Quality of life much outways quantity - what use is quantity if there is no quality?

  • Comment number 39.

    'We have opinion polls carried out every few years in relation to this subject, every time they bring back an overwhelming result showing that the majority of British people want to see the law changed to allow Assisted Suicide to be made legal.

    At least the Director of Public Prosecutions listens to the opinions of the British people, even if our elected representatives do not.'

    The majority want to bring back hanging, both are murder ever which way you look at it......

  • Comment number 40.

    My reaction - NOT GOOD ENOUGH!
    "The policy is now more focused on the motivation of the suspect rather than the characteristics of the victim…The policy does not change the law on assisted suicide. It does not open the door for euthanasia."
    And for these very reasons, the changes are not good enough.

    This main factor should be:
    Victims themselves have reached a clear, voluntary and informed decision to end their life.
    The victim decision should be supported by a panel which consists of
    - victim’s own doctor
    - specialist in victim’s condition,
    - psychiatrist to assess mental competence
    - spiritual advisor (if requested by the victim)
    - lawyer who specializes in the issues
    - the victim
    - the victim’s choice for the implementation of euthanisia
    - if the person is under 18 or incapacited, the parent or guardian.

    If I were in this position, I wouldn't want to be forced into suicide, assisted or not. Preferably I would want someone who knows about ending life, to end my life: without any prosecution implications. This person may or may not even know me. It's sufficient that s/he knows how to kill me - without suffering, quickly.
    Once I’ve decided and the panel supports my decision, my next decisions should be
    - where will I die,
    - how will I die and
    - who will share my passing.

    It is morally wrong to
    - force me, terminally ill already, abroad to end my life among strangers in a strange place,
    - put me in a position where I cannot chose the manner of my death or who may attend,
    - place the person who kindly assisted me under threat of prosecution.
    And most wrong of all, to force me into suicide (assisted or not).
    If God had given me a choice, I would not be terminally ill; surely to God, a loving God would bless me with a peaceful death and bless those who assisted me.

  • Comment number 41.

    #36 Megan: its nice to read a rational and sensible argument, especially your last sentence. As far as I understand Docs can't be forced to carry out abortions if they don't agree with it so it would be relatively simple to give docs a similar protection from having to perform assisted suicides. Dignitas in switzerland doesn't use doctors at all because of the problems with the hypocratic oath so doctors don't have to be involved in the final stage at all if the patient is well enough to swallow their own tablets.

    My father has a major problem with his terminal cancer patients... often they are in so much pain that 'safe' doses of morphine won't block the pain. Giving enough morphine to stop the pain runs the very real risk of killing the patient, and potentially he could end up in court on a murder charge if he did that. That leaves the real risk of letting your patients live in real agony or risk ending up in jail if you attempt to stop their pain. Doctors shouldn't be in that situation.

  • Comment number 42.

    This will be unpopular, but I don't think the guidance goes far enough. We know that eventually a grown-up discussion on euthanasia is going to have to happen and this chipping away at legislation pleases the "care not kill" campaign while weakening the wrong areas of legislation. We need to protect, but have compassion for, those who wish choose their own time of passing on. They should not feel reviled for making such a decision, but should be supported. And we must ensure they do not feel pressured. Pass robust legislation now and allow us to be grown-up and able to make this last choice without fear.

  • Comment number 43.

    You would have thought that the pending pensions black hole would have made the government more keen to kill us off.

  • Comment number 44.

    I recommend 1, 6, 10, 50. whatever. I have not complained about any comment

  • Comment number 45.

    "'We have opinion polls carried out every few years in relation to this subject, every time they bring back an overwhelming result showing that the majority of British people want to see the law changed to allow Assisted Suicide to be made legal"

    I wonder how many people on these opinion polls want to see the law changed so they can kill a loved one or for themselves to be killed.

  • Comment number 46.

    I can't say it goes far enough. Why do we have to be ill? Why can't we simply decide we've had enough of this life.

  • Comment number 47.

    You have to deal with the hand you're dealt in life. This whole 'assisted suicide' is just feel wrong!

    There's to many people acting God in this world already....

  • Comment number 48.

    There is no way that any mortal should interfere if I decide to end my life. If a loved one is caring enough to help me they shouldn't face the added misery of being judged.
    My life is my life - no government or prosecution service should be allowed to dictate what is best for me.
    For all those old enough to remember - 'I am not a number I am a free man'. (The Prisoner circa 1970)

  • Comment number 49.

    AuntieLeft wrote:
    The majority want to bring back hanging, both are murder ever which way you look at it......


    Assisted suicide is not murder.

    This is a typical argument thrown up by those who dislike assisted suicide; unfortunately for them it is impossible to twist assisted suicide to fit the definition of murder within UK law.
    Assisted suicide does not involve someone else carrying out the act that results in your death, they are merely enabling you to carry out that act yourself, hence the term "assisted suicide".

    So in Switzerland the doctors and nurses at organisations such as Dignitas do not kill you, they set up the equipment that you need to kill yourself but the patient always has to initiate the procedure and for this reason systems have been designed where even the most severely disabled person is able to press the button themselves.

    The system I'd like to see introduced to the UK would involve a doctor prescribing a lethal dose of opiates or another similar drug, the person requesting it would still have to administer this themselves all that the doctor would be doing is providing you with the drug.

    Trying to confuse the situation with hanging is also a none-starter, hanging involves doing something to someone else, assisted suicide is about doing something to yourself. There is an obvious difference between the two that makes comparing them irrelevant, people campaigning for legalised assisted suicide are not asking to make decisions about other people; they just want the right to make decisions about their own lives.

  • Comment number 50.

    Keir Starmer of the DPP (The Director of Public Prosecutions) does not speak for me, I speak for myself and as such do not think any other human being has the right to speak for ME unless I directly sanction it. I have read many points of veiw and listened to the news this morning with Dr John Wild (Not for Killing) project his opinions on air followed by Lesley Close (Dignity in Dying)briefly put her points of veiw across. As I understand it the DPP has already published a draft and is aledgedly updating following a public consultation NO ONE ASKED ME WHAT I FEEL ABOUT THIS, yet again another example of a democracy that is non existant. I ask HOW IS THIS PUBLIC CONSULTATION????

  • Comment number 51.

    I commented on this topic this morning and I notice that my feelings have not been posted,being new to this site it said awaiting moderation, so I came back this afternoon to check to see if my feelings had been noted much to my dismay they had not, so I tried again with a much shorter version, I wonder if that will be posted? I was not rude in my comments and stuck to facts and my own personal feelings on this subject which is very close to my heart given my professional background and personal background. Has anyone else experienced this selective moderation I wonder?

  • Comment number 52.

    The law relates to assisting suicide. There are many who take their own lives each year and those people have both the motivation and the means to do that. The problem is that when some people get very old and/or very sick they might well have the motivation to end their lives through suicide but they are effectively denied the means to do so because they become dependent upon others to carry out personal services for them - and currently the service of assisting them to die is against the law. I'm well aware that some find ending any life unnaturally quite abhorrent (mainly due to their faith) but I'm not one of them. I'd have no objection to those who do not agree with assisting sucide from registering their total opposition in respect of their own lives, but what I find unnacceptable is them foisting their view onto me and my loved ones. Its my life - if I want to end it why am I not allowed to do it - even if this requires the help of others?

  • Comment number 53.

    I think this is a cop out. We either accept it and decide that it's legal, or we don't. I personally think it's each individual's decision and I think it's totally wrong that once someone's decided that their conscience is OK with committing suicide, or helping someone commit suicide, that they should have to travel abroad. Surely if nobody's going to be prosecuted, there should be a dignified place closer to home where a person can spend their final hours/days. What these new guidelines seem to be saying is that "we might decide that it's alright, but not as long as it's done in our backyard". Which is totally ridiculous.

    We're a society with religious freedom, and part of that freedom is to allow people who don't believe that suicide is a sin carry out their wishes to end their suffering.

  • Comment number 54.

    "47. At 3:54pm on 25 Feb 2010, We_Are_All_Utd wrote:
    You have to deal with the hand you're dealt in life. This whole 'assisted suicide' is just feel wrong!
    There's to many people acting God in this world already...."
    So I take it you never go to the doctors for medication or the dentist to have your teeth fixed? You just "deal with the hand you're dealt" when you're ill because any intervention could be considered as "acting God".
    Oh please!
    This is a small step forward towards making things a little clearer with assisted suicide.
    I welcome any change that brings us closer to the Swiss laws (with regard to assisted suicide) but I fear this will take a long while!

  • Comment number 55.

    It's about time this debate was had. In some cases death is he kindest thing, I mean you wouldn't make a dog suffer what some elderly or terminal patients are forced to endure. It is not always about the quantity of life, the quality of life is most important.

    I just hope this doesn't turn out to be yet another one of those important debates which just descends in to political point scoring for the sake of a couple of votes at the election. This is literally a matter of life & death & needs to be debated for the good of patients & their loved ones.

  • Comment number 56.

    "13. At 1:16pm on 25 Feb 2010, frankiecrisp wrote:
    No. There should be a clause that stops people who want to help people die making money out of that persons death. Old people are still going have pressure put on them by greedy family members to kill themselves so they don't have to sell houses to pay for care."

    So a husband cannot help his sick wife, or a father help his sick son?

    Most people are assisted by someone they love (and vice versa) - suggesting that it's all about elderly aunts being bumped off by greedy distant relatives is nonsense.

  • Comment number 57.

    All the pro suicide comments say its your life you should have the right to end it if you wish, but nobody seems to be speaking up for the people who are going to be pressured into ending their life for the convenience and or financial gain of others.

  • Comment number 58.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 59.

    reflective1 #51

    Your earlier comment was published on one of the other blogs that started last week, your post can be found here;
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/theeditors/2010/02/euthanasia_debate.html

    Incidentally, I found it to be very informative and agreed with much of what you were saying.

  • Comment number 60.

    One Thing worries me about legalisation - the gradual, inevitable shift of what is considered “usual” when someone is old and or dying. How long before people start to raise an eyebrow on hearing that auntie May still wants to go on at age 95? How long before money available for palliative care is seen as “ a bit of a waste” when so many “normal” people chose to end it themselves? I would hate to see my loved ones suffering when they wanted to die. But I am frankly scared of what subtle and unsubtle pressure I might be under to stop being a “waste of space” when I‘m old or sick. So although this is a bit of a fudge, I'm glad they haven't gone further.

  • Comment number 61.

    So I take it you never go to the doctors for medication or the dentist to have your teeth fixed?
    -
    ---------------------------------------------------------------

    Oh please. So you are quite happy to compare 'Assisted suicide' and 'having a filling', and consider them in the same ball park.

    It's like handing handing out the same sentence to murderer, and someone who has passed wind in church... pathetic argument.

    Killing someone, even if they have been asked to be killed, is quite simply wrong. And the day this is legalised, I predict we will be on a very dangerous, and sad slippery slope.

  • Comment number 62.

    frankiecrisp wrote:
    but nobody seems to be speaking up for the people who are going to be pressured into ending their life for the convenience and or financial gain of others.


    Rubbish !

    What about:

    mrstillymint wrote:
    You need a lot more than just guidlines on such a serious issue. Anyone could end someones life for their own financial gain. I think to be safe, you need a living will by the patient written and witnessed by two unrelated people.There should also be stringent rules regarding the doctors attending.

    Or

    th3_0r4cl3 wrote:
    Sad but true and to protect that one indevidual we should ensure that the legal guidelines are as strict as possible to avoid the vunerable being abused.

    Or

    The Betpet wrote:
    I think that in these days of cheap film recording and the like, a trip to the local council office where someone who is terminally ill can both be video recorded clearly stating they wish to persue euthanasia and sign a document to that effect, should suffice in stopping a prosecution in its tracks. Naturally some kind of background check should be in place to ensure the person in question is either terminally ill or suffering unbearable pain (from their GP) within seven days before the green light is given.


    So, there are at least three posts where people are speaking up for those vulnerable people who may be put at risk, and they're not the only ones, just three I picked to show you're talking rubbish and trying to make out that those in favour of assisted suicide are somehow not bothered about the potential harm that may come to others.
    th3_0r4cl3 isn't even in favour of assisted suicide but is at least able to make a clear and coherent point as well as providing their ideas on how we would regulate such a system.

  • Comment number 63.

    Not a moment too soon. Obviously each case must be decided individually. Have we the will to do this, not just pass sweeping legislation?

  • Comment number 64.

    I think in the long run, the actual law will need to be revisited, but this is a terribly difficult issue and every way you look at it there are pit falls or special cases.

    These new guidelines at least help to clarify a little what should be taken into account when deciding whether a prosecution is warranted or not. And maybe the exercising of these guidelines will help bring to light issues that could be written into a new legal framework.

    It can never be perfect this; this is one of those subjects where I would not want to be a law maker - whether that was judiciary or politician.

  • Comment number 65.

    First, should I become terminally sick I would like to terminate my own life but without involving others - in short commit suicide WHICH IS NOT ILLEGAL. Unfortunately the means to do so have been made so difficult (who has a gun these days?) that this method is practically impossible. Access to a suicide pill would be the answer but again would require a change in the law - denied at present.

    If I had an animal in massive pain and I did nothing the RSPCA would rightly charge me. Animals are better protected from malpractice than humans!

  • Comment number 66.

    Suicide is legal, but apparently assisted suicide is not. If one had the means to end one's life quickly, peaceably and comfortably when the need arose then the need for assisted suicide would be diminished. The problem is that one can not get access to such means.
    If the means e.g. nembutal were made available, should one wish it, then much of the argument would disappear, and we would not have the unpleasant, messy, painful and protracted suicides that occur now.

  • Comment number 67.

    The problem we are facing with legalising assisted suicide is that even if an elderly patient is under no pressure to end their life, they may feel they are a burden on others around them, especially close family and friends who they are depending on. It may be possible to see whether a patient is under pressure to end their life from others, for financial reasons for example, but it may not be possible to know whether a patient percieves themselves to be a burden and feel this perceived pressure is a valid reason for ending their life.
    I personally am of the belief that more steps should be taken towards legalising assissted suicide, as it is possibly one of the most pressing issues at the moment. With our aging society it is something that has to be decisively addressed and a definitive answer should be found.
    But at least these new guidelines show someone is doing something about it.

  • Comment number 68.

    This change is wrong. The law is clear that Assisted Suicide is against the law, so I am not sure that we want the DPP in effect changing the law. However tragic some cases are Assisted Suicide has to remain totally illegal. New laws over the last 40 years have shown that the law always 'drifts'. I have no doubt in my mind that if the law on Assisted Suicide is changed, then within 20 years you will have old people being killed out of compassion to save costs. Life is sacred; once you start allowing murder boundaries will move again and then again etc.

  • Comment number 69.

    Whilst these guidlines are a step in the right direction they do not go far enough. People who assist those wishing to end their lives should be given imunity from prosecution, providing they satisfy the conditions stated. The shame is that not everyone can afford to go to Switzerland,if i were in this position i should much prefer to be in my own home with my own things around me.

  • Comment number 70.

    "Michael wrote:
    This change is wrong. The law is clear that Assisted Suicide is against the law, so I am not sure that we want the DPP in effect changing the law."
    No, they're not changing the law, they're explaining what circumstances under the existing law would be more likely to follow an actual prosecution.
    Let's not get too OTT here.

  • Comment number 71.

    i agree with assisted suicide,to watch someone you love dearly suffering is agonizing.

  • Comment number 72.

    I have read through a lot of the comments. The majority seem to think assisted suicide should be allowed but that its a slippery slope as it could easily be abused, they are right it could and yes in 40 years suicide could be common place but so what? It is your life, you dont get to choose if you're born but there can be no logical argument to prevent you dying if you choose it. The best safeguards I can think of putting in place is to make it common place, make it an optional treatment available on the NHS so it can be assured that it is done at the patients request and nobody is prosecuted or gains financially. Better than having to come home and find a loved one with slit wrists Idve thought...

  • Comment number 73.

    As a Christian who belives in the afterlife, I am appalled that so many advocate a haste departure from this world, choosing to ignore the Gospel message of Heaven and Hell,and refusing the 'free ticket' entry into Heaven. According to the teaching of Jesus, hell is a reality beyond the grave, as Christians we are supposed to help people understand and choose the right option. How sad that the people won't be given the choice before they die, there i no second choice after death!

  • Comment number 74.

    I am desperately unsure whether to support assisted suicide or not - and oppose it primarily out of anxiety and uncertainty - but what I do know is that for this of all issues, legal clarity is required. That clarity is now present, and I am pleased with that.

  • Comment number 75.

    reading a story in a newspaper about two bobbies who did'nt want to go against health and safety regs. as a woman who was behind a door slit her wrists;why are they not declared as assisting suicide ?

  • Comment number 76.

    We seem to have lost our religious and moral bearings over assisted suicide. It is one thing to be compassionate towards the suffering of loved ones but they are almost certainly experiencing despair and have reached a point where their mental state is at its lowest ebb. Basically suicide is the ultimate act of sheer desperation and is a loss of hope. The so-called dignified end to suffering is actually the opposite of dispatching a suffering animal because the suicide is self inflicted.

  • Comment number 77.

    I posted this on another blog in error

    It's not too difficult to find your postings
    1)Click onto your signing in name located just before the comments commence
    2)This will bring up a log of your postings with time & date
    3)Click on the posting you wish to view, this will bring up the blog in question
    4)Scroll down to the time/date noted @ (2)

    Admittedly not quite as easy as the old HYS but not so difficult

  • Comment number 78.

    If I decided that 'enough was enough' because I had a terminal illness and was becoming a shadow of my former self, I could either:

    1) commit suicide whilst I was able or
    2) endure a long embarrassing, demeaning and upsetting death or
    3) could continue to 'enjoy' my last few months/ years in the knowledge that I had support of a loved one to assist me in suicide when I felt it was the right time.

    Option 3 would be my choice and believe that I should have that option without having to trek off to Switzerland. The sooner the law acknowledges this (with obvious safeguards to protect the vulnerable) the better.

    At 52 and in good health, I hope the law changes before I need it to.

    We are 'kind' to animals to stop them suffering, why do we accept this as being acceptable for ourselves?

    Why would anyone want to be bedridden for months/years without any chance of recovery? Surely common sense dictates a change in the law?

  • Comment number 79.

    I recently watched Terry Pratchett giving this year's Dimbleby Lecture found myself agreeing with everything he said. We need a change in the Law to give clear, commonsense guidelines to all involved, the person who wishes to end their life with dignity, those who would be chosen to assist them, the Police, the prosecutors and the Courts.

    Of course the vulnerable need to be protected, precisely the reason that we need clear commonsense guidelines, not complex advice open to subjective interpretation.

  • Comment number 80.

    Joseph #73

    While I don't share your beliefs I do respect them and as such should you be in a situation where you were living in constant pain and suffering but decided that you wanted to live out the rest of your natural life then I would be happy to help fund your care through the NHS until you died (hopefully a very long time from now).

    It's not what I want for myself but it's your body, your life and your beliefs so for me it should be your choice and therefore I would support your decision.

    Could you not try to do the same for me ?

    My beliefs do not include the sort of afterlife that you believe in and I don't believe that God will judge me negatively for taking my life if I were in such a situation. My belief system includes the belief that people should be able to make their own decisions about such things.

    I don't expect you to believe the same things as me, I just want you to respect my beliefs and my choices just as I respect yours.

  • Comment number 81.

    This is a murderers charter. I bet some people will be coerced into 'ending it'.
    Family pressure to die "for the sake of family stability".
    No, there are not enough safeguards for some vulnerable people.
    God alone has the right to take away life.
    in light
    supajohnny

  • Comment number 82.

    This is such an easy dilemma to deal with, one I solved several years ago...

    I have a 'living' will, made when I am of sound body and mind, so if there ever comes a time when I am not able to think clearly and need assistance to end my life, it is covered by a LEGAL DOCUMENT prepared and witnessed in a solicitors office. It also covers an event that happened recently when I required surgery, in which if anything went wrong and I died on the table, I would not want to be rescusitated if there was the risk of severe brain damage.

    This is how ALL CASES should be defined in law, the person with the Illness or Disease can make a living will to cover a worse case scenario... if their is no LEGAL document setting out their wishes, made whilst of sound body and mind, then no one can assist them to die.

  • Comment number 83.

    Sophie (#9)wrote: "I watched my father die a slow and painful death a few months ago. The last week of his life shouldn't have happened,.......... I thought long and hard about putting a pillow over his face and the only guilt I feel is for not having the guts to do so.."
    My father's passing was very similar. Two weeks before his death, he asked why we could make it so less painful for our pet, but not for us.
    James Rigby (#10)wrote: "if they agree that the person is of sound mind, then anyone should be allowed to help/support the suicidee - even if the suicidee could physically do it themselves."
    If the suicidee is not of sound mind, but had made known their wishes in relation to suicide earlier, what then??
    These guidlines, I hope, will be expanded on to close loopholes. As Mrs Vee (#20) wrote: If I can't do it myself my husband will do it for me and I will do the same for him." This leaves the husband's only choice now as suicide also, instead of living his life out till he feels it's time... too many 'murder/suicides' have been performed because of the exisitng laws... leaving families losing two parents at once.
    Joseph (#73) wrote: "as Christians we are supposed to help people understand and choose the right option" And so, are non-Christians to suffer in the end to suit YOUR beliefs??
    My own thoughts follow along royaloldroger's(#69) When there is no turning back, nothing that can be done at that moment to provide 'Quality of Life', I feel it is OUR decision to make. When the body starts to shut down, it can take many excruciating days before one succumbs, why should many suffer through this when only a few people make the rules?
    Clive Smith (#78)- Right on!!

  • Comment number 84.

    When my father, in the early stages of dementia, pleaded with me to help him end his life I told him I would not because I did not want to go to prison. He endured another four years of existence (certainly not "life") due to my cowardice. The law should enable those who want to die to meet their end as they wish with dignity. I and the law of this country are guilty of enforcing on my father every moment of the suffering he endured. This must change.

  • Comment number 85.

    Who gave Kier Starmer, Director of Public Prosecutions, the POWER to issue guidelines on assisted suicide???

    How dare HE, or any government appointed CIVIL SERVANT, be allowed to issue what is, effectively, a sly and progressive, public brain-washing on who is worthy to kill; worthy to live and worthy to decide issues of life and death OUTSIDE of the medical profession who take an oath?

    Is Mr Starmer the new 'POLITICAL' DOCTOR OF LIFE AND DEATH?

    The STATE must STAY OUT of this entirely. Doctors and patients' privacy together is just that, or the STATE will decide next on disability; new born babies or your mum, dad, or grandparents? NO, NO, NO!!!

  • Comment number 86.

    I believe that assisted suicide is illegal for the primary reason that the option for it to be legal is not realistic. Though that said every case is sensitive and different and it would require another level of study and debate with the medical practitioners and as communities to decide in specific cases whether or not it is relevant or indeed appropriate to them. So that is my view on the subject and believe that it is much an individuals right provided they are mentally aware enough to be capable of making the decision then they should be within there right to do it though it is a grey area as with anything in life it is never straight forward and believe that this is no different in death.

  • Comment number 87.

    This is hard to get right .. say yes and there are some wicked people who would take advantage , just look at the stories from nursing homes, if a person has no one to care one way or the other, however if someone leaves notice that they would like to do this when the time if right, so a death will be looked into. on the other hand who should be able to decide for me when my time is up , its my life i do not need a government minister or some other busybody to have a say in my demise.

  • Comment number 88.

    This obsession to criminalise assisted suicide is indicative of how difficult it will be to deal with containing the world's population size.

    It will be the most lethal procrastination of mankind.

  • Comment number 89.

    Formal legalisation of assisted suicide is probably a bridge too far at the moment. The new guidelines are welcome because they are a move in the right direction. They give more reassurance that prosecution will not follow if certain steps are taken, if the motives were right and that the suicide was genuine. It remains right that each case should be treated on its own merits.
    The idea of a formal assisted suicide structure, with patient, family, legal and medical team involvement is probably the next step, but some years off.
    Currently, we are, as a nation, testing the water.

  • Comment number 90.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 91.

    In the case of mentally competent adults who are terminally ill, only they should have the right to determine when and how they die.

    In all other cases, changes in the law are necessary to allow doctors to terminate life where there is no hope of recovery and the patient is clearly suffering pain and indignity.

    For too long, religious factions have maintained that only their God has the power of life over death, and vice versa. That's all very well if you believe in that kind of thing, and you are quite prepared to suffer an agonizing and lingering death. In this enlightened age, however, society has thankfully moved on from fanciful tales of fiction, and needs to grapple with the real world.

    Those so vehemently against assisted dying and assisted suicide continue to trot out the fear of undue pressure on a patient. It is well known that provisions and safeguards have been proposed to overcome this but, that aside, what is wrong with somebody wishing to end their life merely because they have had enough, and don't want to see their hard-earned life savings frittered away in care homes? The choice is theirs, and theirs alone.

    We don't give any animal a choice when the vet puts it to sleep - yet, we can and should be prosecuted if we allow any animal to suffer unnecessarily. At present, I'd rather be a pet dog than a human being when my time comes.

  • Comment number 92.

    Hello to ALL(agreeable and disagreeable) members of previous, and sadly missed, the 'real' 'Have Your Say'.

    Unfortunately, this new format offers no option to support opinion, or enjoy an open debate, or even ironic views, but only an option to complain?

    What's the point of membership to this now sad 'one-way' cul-de-sac bbc blog



  • Comment number 93.

    I always wonder why it is considered cruel, and one can get prosecuted for, making a rat suffer by prolonging it's life when you should put it down, without its consent...
    While at the same time you can be prosecuted for helping to end the suffering of a higher life form with its consent.

    So it's OK to kill one creature without asking, and Not OK to do the same to another creature that actually wants it?

    Seems the priorities are backwards.

    To me assisted suicide is not killing, it's just doing for someone else that which they can not do for them self. I open the packet, I place the pill in their hand, I pass the glass of water to swallow the pill with. I do not force the pill into their mouth, not make them swallow it.

  • Comment number 94.

    Sadly my previous post in support of assisted suicide has been banned by the BBC moderators, maybe they believe people should be left to suffer and block any opinions that differ too greatly from their own.

    To anyone against assisted suicide, would you let your husband, wife, son or daughter suffer for the remainder of their natural life if they were begging you to end their suffering - could you look them in the eye and say you don't believe in assisting suicide, so they will have to just suffer?????

  • Comment number 95.

    I thought it was "first do no harm?"

    Vets recognise that sometimes trying to continue a life is "doing harm", and that is is best to end it.

    Is it not time Human's Vets recognise that it can be harmful to try to prolong life past a certain point, and perhaps (with the individuals informed consent) it might to best to treat a human as well as one would treat a dog?

  • Comment number 96.

    How bizarre? Assisted suicide decisions in the hands of civil servants, lawyers and the DPP and the CPS? Yes, let the State machinery decide on end of life? Just check your NHS summary care record that's on file?

    Sadly, many politicians and ministers, because they are so detached, regard most voters as annoying and illiterate 'pond life' perhaps?
    Is Soylent Green still science fiction? Look it up, and think about it?

  • Comment number 97.

    My sister died last year from Ms.. and this year they same they might have a cure..Could you imagine how we feel today!.
    could you imagine if we had assisted in her suicide!!!!!!!!

  • Comment number 98.

    No one should have to suffer sometimes weeks of agony and humiliation, before death! Everyone should have the right to request assistance to die in dignity. So, with proper medical procedures and all the legal channels investigated, there should be relief for us all in those circumstances, if we cannot achieve it ourselves.

  • Comment number 99.

    Since seeing my dad dying of bowel cancer, I have been 101% sure that I would not wish to die as he did.
    It took me 10 years to get over it, whereas my uncle (who I was very close to), died instantly when he had a heart attack.
    That was far easier to accept as I know it was quick and he was probably unaware of what was happening and he didn't suffer in any way, unlike his brother.
    I hope that I dont need to go down the assisted dying (I DONT call it suicide!!!) route, but I am happy to take my own life as I believe we should all have the choice how we die (if necessary) and equally, I am happy for someone with the same illness to suffer a long painful death, if thats what the choose! And I hope they enjoy the agony and suffering to themselves and their family.
    I respect their right to choose, but the Right to Life lot, don't respect mine!

  • Comment number 100.

    'Is Soylent Green still science fiction? Look it up, and think about it?'
    Corum-populo

    Er, you mean that thing where a supercorporation turns people into food for mass consumption?

    Yes, I believe that is still fiction.

    The point pf this debate is whether or not people should be allowed to help people who have decided to end their lives. It's not a great decision but I for one believe they should, and from the sounds of it the majority of the UK also agree and have agreed for some time.

    So why haven't they changed the law?

    Well probably because they're worried about upsetting religious groups (C of E, Roman Cath, Muslims etc) who tend to get most upset everytime this issue is raised, and those people have the potential to vote in blocks. So ignoring the average voters wishes on this issue won't lose anyone an election but granting it might.

    The irony of the plot for Soylent Green the whole catastrophe is caused by massive overpopulation in the first place.

 

Page 1 of 2

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.