Attempt to relax the law on assisted suicide fails

An attempt to undermine the law against assisted suicide has been unanimously rejected by the House of Commons.

In stark contrast the Commons gave unanimous backing to an amendment encouraging the development of specialist palliative care services.

Therese Coffey, a Conservative MP, said: “It was a mature debate but certainly clear that there was no appetite of the majority of the House to change the law as it stands today.”


MPs were considering controversial guidance on prosecuting cases of assisted suicide which was issued in 2010 by the Director of Public Prosecutions.

During the debate an amendment which aimed to place the guidance on a statutory footing was rejected unanimously by the Commons. The amendment, tabled by Dame Joan Ruddock, was voted down by voice without the need for a division after no MP supported it.

Fiona Bruce, the Conservative MP who tabled the successful palliative care amendment, said: “We are absolutely delighted that the house has sent such a clear message that improving specialist palliative and hospice care is a priority and that assisted suicide is not the route we wish to take as a society.”


Dr Peter Saunders, director of Care Not Killing, said: “MPs have today given a ringing endorsement to the need for the further development of specialist palliative care and hospice provision in which Britain is already a world leader.

“We welcome this move to strengthen existing services and to make the highest quality care more accessible and available.”

He added: “Any attempt to decriminalise assisted suicide or euthanasia would result in a huge escalation of cases as seen in jurisdictions like Oregon and the Netherlands.


“As determined by a previous House of Lords enquiry, with an Oregon or Netherlands type law in Britain we would have 1,000 and 13,000 cases respectively annually.”

Earlier this year the Archbishop of Canterbury also said weakening the law on assisted suicide would be a “disaster”.

Dr Rowan Williams made the comments at the Church of England’s General Synod meeting in London during a debate on a Demos report which advocated assisted suicide.

Related Resources