British House of Lords to Begin Debate on Assisted Suicide Tourism Amendment

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jun 8, 2009   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

British House of Lords to Begin Debate on Assisted Suicide Tourism Amendment

by Steven Ertelt Editor
June 8
, 2009

London, England ( — The British House of Lords is slated to begin debate on an amendment from Lord Falconer, the former Attorney General, to make it easier for Britons to engage in assisted suicide. The amendment would repeal the already-raddled law that prevents suicide tourism.

That is the practice where residents of Britain travel to other nations, typically Switzerland where Dignitas euthanasia centers are located, to kill themselves.

The current law in England prohibits suicide tourism and calls for as long as 14 years in prison for aiding a suicide, although the law is almost never enforced.

The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, a U.K. pro-life group, is leading the charge against the amendment.

"This amendment has now been published, and it poses a very serious threat," the group told over the weekend. "It is urgent that people contact members of the House of Lords urging them to oppose Lord Falconer’s amendment."

SPUC indicates the Falconer amendment will be debated at the Lords committee-stage of the bill on Tuesday and Wednesday and during a follow-up debate on June 23. Two or more days worth of debate are unscheduled but expected.

The pro-life group doesn’t expect the full House of Lords to debate and vote on the amendment until at least June 23.

Meanwhile, SPUC notes that another, more expansive, pro-assisted suicide amendment has also been tabled.

"This is broader than the Falconer amendment in that it would sanction assisted suicide in the UK," SPUC notes. "It is very loosely drafted and appears to be tabled to prompt debate, not as a serious attempt to change the law. Please ask Lords to reject this amendment too."

The Falconer amendment would say that "no offence shall have been committed if assistance is given to a person to commit suicide" and sets for provisions for when assisted suicides can be carried out.

Although some MPs are hoping to legalize assisted suicide, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has said he doesn’t favor such a move.

Over 100 MPs signed Early Day Motion 230 which expresses concern about "the choices that some terminally ill adults are being forced to make" because assisted suicide is illegal in the UK. They say there is the chance for the law to be changed via the Coroners and Justice Bill.

But a spokesman for Brown says the Prime Minister has retained his long-held beliefs that assisted suicide is wrong, though he also believes Parliament is entitled to vote on the matter.

In December, when asked about assisted suicide at prime minister’s questions, Brown said: "I believe that it is necessary to ensure that there is never a case in this country where a sick or elderly person feels under pressure to agree to an assisted death or somehow feels it is the expected thing to do. That is why I have always opposed legislation for assisted deaths."

ACTION: MPs can be contacted by email via or by telephone through the House of Commons switchboard number 020 7219 3000. You can also write to MPs at House of Lords, London SW1A 0PW.

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