February 24, 2011

Health Authority calls for change in suicide law


by Jan Harris

West Midlands NHS Strategic Health Authority has called for changes to the UK law on suicide, to make it fit for the 21st century.

Pauline Smith, the end of life care lead for NHS West Midlands has expressed concern that the current law, which makes it illegal to help someone commit suicide in the UK, means that only people who can afford to travel to Switzerland have a choice over how they die.

Think tank Demos is currently holding an inquiry into whether it should be made legal to help someone to die in the UK.

A recent claim by so called ‘Dr Death’, Philip Nitschke, that prosecution guidelines published last year make it possible to open a suicide clinic in London, has been denied.

The guidelines were published by Director of Public Prosecutions for England and Wales, Keir Starmer QC following pressure from the pro-euthanasia groups.

Mr Starmer has made it clear that assisted suicide remains illegal and that the guidelines only list factors which should be considered when deciding whether a prosecution is “in the public interest”.

Dr Nitschke made the comment on BBC Wales when he was talking about his planned suicide workshops in the UK, most of which have now been cancelled.

The workshops are believed to include a demonstration of how to end life.

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