England MP to Introduce Bill to Legalize Assisted Suicide After Purdy Ruling

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jul 31, 2009   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

England MP to Introduce Bill to Legalize Assisted Suicide After Purdy Ruling

by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
July 31
, 2009

London, England (LifeNews.com) — Following a House of Lords ruling that Debbie Purdy’s husband can take her to Switzerland for an assisted suicide without facing prosecution, a British MP plans to introduce a new bill in Parliament. The measure would legalize assisted suicide in England and follow nations like the Netherlands and Belgium.

David Winnick, Labour MP for Walsall North, said he planned to enter the lottery with a private member’s bill.

He told the London Daily mail his bill would be "a measure whereby assisted dying could take place in this country."

"The question arises from yesterday’s decision – should we recognize cases such as Debbie Purdy, should we change the law, should people have to go abroad?" he said.

In their ruling, Lord Hope, sitting with Lords Phillips, Brown and Neuberger and Baroness Hale said their decision was not meant to open the door to legalizing assisted suicide, but to clarify and interpret the current law prohibiting suicide tourism.

But Paul Tully, the general secretary of the pro-life group SPUC, said the House of Lords is disingenuous.

"This judgment is plainly directed at getting the law changed, despite the insistence by several of the judges that that is not their purpose," he said in a statement LifeNews.com received.

Tully added: "None of the five judges suggests that it is wrong in general to help suicidal people with disabilities or degenerative conditions to kill themselves – and one suggests that bankruptcy or the grief of bereavement can be equally good reasons to commit suicide. Another of the Law Lords argues that some people assisting suicide should be commended for their criminal actions."

"The ruling fails to recognize the social problem of suicide, which currently affects between 5,000 and 6,000 families a year in Britain. This number could grow very substantially as a result of this ruling," he said.

Earlier this month, members of the 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.

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.

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

As LifeNews.com has reported, Prime Minister Gordon Brown said in an interview at the end of December that he would block any legislation to legalize assisted suicide and that British law should make “absolutely clear” that it recognizes the value of human life.

"I am totally against laws [allowing assisted suicide or euthanasia]," Brown said. "It is not really for us to create any legislation that would put pressure on people to feel they had to offer themselves because they were causing trouble to a relative or anyone else."

Related web sites:
SPUC – https://www.spuc.org.uk

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