UK's Commission on Assisted Dying to recommend law change

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Lord Falconer, former Lord Chancellor, has chaired the Commission on Assisted Dying.
Image: Steve Punter.

Media reports recently released have suggested that the United Kingdom's Commission on Assisted Dying, which was set up by the think-tank Demos in 2010, will support a change in British law to make it legal for someone to seek an assisted suicide, when they publish their final report on Thursday.

The Commission has been led by the former Lord Chancellor, Lord Falconer. The Commission has members from the medical profession, from patient's advocacy groups, politicians including the Conservative MP Penny Mordaunt, and a clergyman, Rev James Woodword, Canon of St George’s Chapel, Windsor.

The philosopher Mary Warnock, who strongly supports provision of assisted dying, has said that Parliament has a "moral duty" to change the law. Ian Blair, the former commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, also served on the Commission and has stated he supports a change in the law as it currently places police officers in the difficult situation of investigating cases of assisted suicide, with family members facing uncertainty as to whether the Director of Public Prosecutions will bring charges. Lord Blair also described as "incoherent" the current position that doctors are placed in by the law which is unclear as to what exactly counts as "assisting" a suicide.

British prime minister David Cameron has opposed changing assisted-dying law. He wrote in 2006: "I do not think we should tread over this line and we should not allow doctors or others positively to accelerate death — because I think the long-term consequences of permitting such action are too likely to be dangerous for society."