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Assisted suicide must not be legalised, say BMA leaders

BMA responds to Crown Prosecution Service's consultation

Friday, 11 December 2009

The BMA has restated its position on assisted suicide stating that it does not want the UK legislation to change.

The association was responding to a Crown Prosecution Service consultation aimed at clarifying the law on assisted suicide.

DPP (director of public prosecutions) Keir Starmer launched the consultation in September following the case of Debbie Purdy. Ms Purdy, who has multiple sclerosis, took her case — which was seeking clarity on whether her husband would be prosecuted if he helped her travel to a euthanasia clinic in Switzerland — to the House of Lords.

The Law lords ruled in July that the DPP should specify whether a person might face prosecution over assisting a suicide. But the BMA is concerned that the interim policy has been portrayed by some in the media as a relaxation of the assisted suicide laws, which would make it easier for doctors or relatives to avoid prosecution if they were to help someone to die.

The association is keen to ensure the new rules do not make it easier for doctors to help patients to die.

"It is of central concern to the BMA that the prohibition on assisted suicide is not lifted and that a reduction in the number of suicides is encouraged," said the BMA in a statement.

The BMA added that further clarification is needed on the issue.

The situation of people accompanying those who wish to commit suicide abroad was discussed by doctors at the 2009 ARM, however they decided not to make policy on the issue.

The DPP says he intends to publish a final policy on "this very sensitive area of the law" by March 10.

The consultation closes next week.

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