England Pro-Life Groups: Prosecutor’s Assisted Suicide Guidelines Target Disabled

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Sep 23, 2009   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

England Pro-Life Groups: Prosecutor’s Assisted Suicide Guidelines Target Disabled

by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
September 23
, 2009

London, England (LifeNews.com) — The backlash continues against the new guidelines issued by a head prosecutor for when people will not be charged with assisted suicide. Keir Starmer QC, the director of public prosecutions, has gone beyond a court ruling and decriminalized assisted suicides in the UK committed by friends and relatives.

Starmer says only someone who organizes the death of a person who has been “vulnerable to manipulation” can be prosecuted.

Thus, it is no longer illegal to assisted in a suicide but it would be unlawful to encourage one.

SPUC Pro-Life, based in Britain, has issued a new condemnation of the guidelines.

In summary, SPUC Pro-Life says prosecutions will be less likely in cases where the deceased had been disabled or terminally ill and that the guidelines will legally downgrade the right to life of disabled or terminally-ill people.

The group says the guidelines confirm the fears of disabled people that the law deems their lives to be inferior and contradicts the fairness and objectivity requirements of the existing general code for prosecutors.

Paul Tully, SPUC Pro-Life’s general secretary, commented: "The new interim policy for prosecuting assisted suicide issued by the director of public prosecutions (DPP) today confirms the fears of disabled people that their lives are regarded as of inferior quality by the law."

The prosecutor’s decision follows a decision by the House of Lords allowing Debbie Purdy the right to know if her husband would be prosecuted if he took her to Switzerland to kill herself.

Purdy sued and the Lords, the UK’s supreme court, ruled she had a right to know and directed a prosecutor to publish guidelines as to when the current assisted suicide law would and would not be enforced.

SPUC Pro-Life had intervener status in the Purdy case, which gave rise to the new prosecuting policy.

Mr Tully continued: "The right to life of terminally-ill and disabled people will be legally downgraded under this policy, despite the lip-service paid to the right to life of disabled people during the House of Lords hearing."

"This is a subtle but significant downgrading of disabled people – we are seeing withdrawal of legal protection by stealth," he said.

"In the newly-published prosecuting policy, physical disability of a suicide victim is listed among the factors that count against prosecuting someone who either encourages or helps a suicide", said Mr Tully.

"This stands in stark contradiction to the existing general code of the Crown Prosecution Service," he explained. "This new assisted suicide policy introduces pressure on Crown Prosecutors from within the service to be unfair and subjective."

"The new policy as drafted will be a useful guide to anyone who wants to promote the suicide of their troublesome relatives with impunity," he continued. "Knowing these factors will help the perpetrators of crime avoid prosecution, simply by making statements about what the victim allegedly said to them – and the victims will not be able to deny it."

SPUC Pro-Life will be encouraging disability groups, and all those affected by suicides and suicide attempts, to lobby the DPP to enforce the law against assisted suicide justly and fairly.

The Christian Legal Centre is also concerned by the publication of the guidelines.

Although the guidelines will be subject to consultation before becoming fully established policy, the Centre’s Executive Director, Barrister Andrea Williams has serious misgivings.

"Our hearts of course go out to elderly and unwell people who are suffering from horrible medical conditions and to their loved ones," she told LifeNews.com. "But we believe that all life should be protected in law and that the guidelines published today will cause great harm to individuals and society."

She added: "We should learn from other jurisdictions where assisted suicide has been legalized. Very soon, elderly and vulnerable people surveyed by researchers report a shift in perception towards seeing themselves as a burden on their families and being under a ‘duty to die.’"

"Additionally, we are concerned that the system will be open to abuse and to a creeping, ever-widening application, which has been observed in previous cases in our own legal history where laws have been injudiciously liberalize," Williams continued.

She concluded: "We shall do all we can to raise awareness of these underestimated factors in the run up to the consultation. In other jurisdictions similar laws have soon been abandoned when the damage becomes evident, but only after that damage has been done. We would rather we turned back from this profoundly mistaken policy before that is allowed to happen."

Related web sites:
SPUC – https://www.spuc.org.uk
Christian Legal Centre – https://christianlegalcentre.com

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