British House of Lords Defeats Falconer Amendment to Promote Assisted Suicide

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jul 7, 2009   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

British House of Lords Defeats Falconer Amendment to Promote Assisted Suicide

by Steven Ertelt Editor
July 7
, 2009

London, England ( — Members of the British House of Lords on Tuesday defeated 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 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.

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. Some figures show as many as 115 people have gone to other nations to help kill loved ones without facing any prosecution.

Former Labour Lord Chancellor Lord Falconer argued for it saying the there was a legal "no-man’s land" that required clarity.

After a passionate debate the Lords defeated the amendment to the Coroners and Justice Bill by a 194 to 141 vote.

Peter Saunders of the Care Not Killing Alliance applauded the vote afterwards.

"What a relief, we have fought them off for another year," he said. He noted that the margin against the pro-assisted suicide amendment was "a bigger margin than the defeat of the Joffe Bill."

Other pro-life advocates also argued against Falconer.

Bishop of Exeter, the Rt Rev Michael Langrish, who has a 30-year-old daughter with Down’s syndrome, told the Lords that the amendment would be "a legislative milestone on that slippery slope to introducing assisted suicide here in the UK by incremental degrees."

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

Paul Tully, SPUC general secretary, commented, "This was a significant victory for the right to life. Time and again Parliament has blocked attempts to undermine the protective ban on assisted suicide."

"It’s time for the Voluntary Euthanasia Society – now repackaged as Dignity in Dying – to drop its parliamentary campaign, a campaign which is offensive to very many people who live with, or care for those with, disability or terminal illness," he said.

SPUc has laid out the main case against the amendment.

"The amendment is a major attack on the legal protection of the right to life," the organization said before the vote. "Despite the supposed "safeguards", the amendment would place vulnerable people at risk, and pave the way for extending the killing of those who are ill or disabled."

"If it passes it will be used by the euthanasia lobby to attack the prohibition on assisted suicide, by arguing that if it is legal to aid a person in traveling abroad for assisted suicide, it should be legal to help a person to commit suicide in this country rather than "export the problem," SPUC added.

"All attempts to sanction assisted suicide and euthanasia must be strongly resisted. Assisted suicide undermines the fundamental human right to life and these proposals, as usual, entail implicit discrimination against those who are terminally ill," the group added.

Related web sites:
Society for the Protection of Unborn Children –

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