British Parliament to Vote on Amendment Monday to Allow Assisted Suicide Tourism

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Oct 21, 2009   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

British Parliament to Vote on Amendment Monday to Allow Assisted Suicide Tourism

by Steven Ertelt Editor
October 21
, 2009

London, England ( — Members of the House of Lords are expected to vote again on Monday on an amendment that would promote assisted suicide. The vote comes after the July defeat of another amendment that would have made it easier for Britons to engage in assisted suicide.

The British pro-life group SPUC, the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, is calling on pro-life advocates to contact members of parliament to oppose the amendment.

"Following the defeat in the summer of Lord Falconer’s attempt to widen the law on assisted suicide, Lord Alderdice has re-tabled his amendment to the Coroners and Justice bill," Paul Tully, the SPUC General secretary, told

"The amendment would allow assisted suicide," he said. "He had tabled the amendment for the bill’s committee stage before the summer recess but withdrew it before it was debated."

Tully says the Alderdice amendment is likely to be debated this Monday during the bill’s report stage.

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

Tully says pro-life advocates should email members of the House of Lords to urge them to oppose the new amendment and focus their efforts on sympathetic Lords, such as those who voted against the Falconer measure.

Like the Falconer amendment, the new measure 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.

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

Before the Falconer vote, pro-life advocates argued against it.

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."

Paul Tully said before the vote that "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."

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. "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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