Britain has legalised assisted suicide when no one was looking
I read the splash in The Times today: prosecutors in this country are turning a blind eye to cases of assisted suicide. The number of incidents where someone helps a friend or relative take their lives is rising; but no one is being prosecuted.
I didn't need The Times to tell me that assisted suicide is, for all intents and purposes, legal. When I researched assisted suicide for the Centre for Policy Studies just over a year ago I could see the trend was underway: yes, the police was often questioning those friends and relatives who had returned from the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland where they'd helped their loved ones do away with themselves (and helped turn Dignitas founder, Dr Ludwig Minelli, into a milionaire); but the cases were always shelved. Keir Starmer, the Director of Public Prosecutions, had issued guidelines that spelled out clearly that it was not in the public interest to prosecute (or even investigate) cases of assisted suicide. "We're losing this battle" a prominent campaigner against assisted suicide confessed, off the record. "Public opinion is against us."
He was right: people are terrified of dying in the hostile environment of a hospital, of losing dignity because of a debilitating disease such as motor neurone, or even just old age. Our culture has become obsessed with health and youth: nothing else will do. If a little pill can take us out of the misery of brittle bones, immobility and incontinence, then let's pop it.
But here's a thought: what if, when you are 70, a bit frail, a bit needy, someone else decides that life would be a lot easier without you around? They can let you know, subtly, quietly, that their happiness and fortune would benefit a great deal from your speedy exit. They can pull at your heart strings and leave you thinking that, really, you owe them this. That's when legalising assisted suicide turns tricky: because "suicide" in these cases is a euphemism. It's murder.
This is a compelling argument to beware and to be aware of the inherent dangers involved in permitting this practice to proceed unchecked. It must, surely, be the case that this taking of life is an act of premeditated murder.
In her article, But what of cases whereby that decision is reached not by the persons themselves but by a medical team on their behalves and without their knowledge or the knowledge of loved ones and family – or even with their knowledge?
Such decisions taken under the LCP protocols permit such acts to proceed with impunity and are given the full protection of the law. The LCP is a legal document. Thus is the weight and the force of the law circumvented and thwarted and an act of killing is no longer an act of murder. Put quite plainly and simply, the law is no longer the law.