Assisted suicide should be legalised
The law allows me to kill myself, but what if I have a progressive illness and reach a stage when I long to end my life but cannot do so unaided. Isn’t it needlessly cruel and illogical that as the law stands, no friend or family member or doctor can then help me die without risking prosecution and a possible jail sentence? No it isn’t, say those who oppose legalising assisted suicide. Think of the pressures that would build once it became a legally sanctioned option – not least the pressure to extend the category of those whom it is permissible to help kill beyond the terminally ill to the old, the frail and even the mildly depressed. Think of the internal and external pressure on elderly relatives to seek assistance for an early exit so as to avoid being a burden and using up the family inheritance; or the pressure on the NHS to create more bed space.
Would it not be better, say opponents of legalisation, to retain the kind of fudge we’ve got at the moment, allowing the Director of Public Prosecutions to give a nod and a wink to assisted suicide unless he suspects foul play? Or is that just a recipe for the very uncertainty – and attendant misery that gives rise to such passionate calls for a change in the law in the first place?
We were joined by a panel of experts in 2011 to debate the motion “Assisted suicide should be legalised”. Arguing in favour of the motion were Emily Jackson, Professor of Law at the London School of Economics; Mary Warnock, moral philosopher, life peer and former Member of House of Lords Select Committee on Euthanasia; and the late Debbie Purdy, a right-to-die campaigner who in 2009 won a landmark ruling to clarify the law on assisted suicide.
Arguing against the motion were Lord Carlile QC, barrister, Liberal Democrat peer and chairman of Care not Killing; Baroness Finlay, Professor of Palliative Medicine at Cardiff University; and Richard Harries, former Bishop of Oxford and author of Questions of Life and Death: Christian Faith and Medical Intervention.
The debate was chaired by journalist and broadcaster Sue Lawley.