UK Issues Guidelines on Assisted Suicide Law

22 September 2009 (Last Updated September 22nd, 2009 18:30)

New guidelines have been issued on assisted suicide to clarify the law in England and Wales. The guidelines do not represent a change in the law but state what factors will be taken into account when deciding whether to take a case to prosecution. Assisting suicide is still

New guidelines have been issued on assisted suicide to clarify the law in England and Wales.

The guidelines do not represent a change in the law but state what factors will be taken into account when deciding whether to take a case to prosecution.

Assisting suicide is still illegal in England and Wales, and carries a jail term of up to 14 years.

Any change in law could have repercussions for hospitals in the country and alter the type of care that could be offered to sufferers of chronic illnesses.

The guidelines come after multiple sclerosis sufferer Debbie Purdy won the right in July to know whether her husband would be prosecuted if he accompanies her to Swiss Clinic Dignitas, where she wishes to die if her condition worsens. The decision was seen at the time as a turning point in UK law on assisted suicide.

At the time the law lords ruled that the lack of clarity in the law was a violation of the right to a private and family life.

The factors that would be taken into account when deciding on a prosecution are whether a person would financially benefit from the suicide and if the person wanting to die was thought to be of sound mind to make the decision, the BBC reports.