The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) will publish guidance on Wednesday outlining how the law against assisted suicide will be applied by prosecutors.
In an interview yesterday the DPP, Keir Starmer QC, emphasised that the law on assisted suicide has not been changed.
Mr Starmer was ordered by the Law Lords earlier this year to issue a “custom-built policy statement” on the issue after they upheld a claim that the current policy is ‘unclear’.
When they handed down their ruling, the Law Lords insisted that it was up to Parliament to change the law on assisted suicide. The House of Lords voted against changing the law earlier this year.
Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, Mr Starmer said the guidance would “list the factors that are likely to lead to a prosecution and list those that aren’t”.
He said the guidance would “steer a careful course between protecting the vulnerable from those that might gain from hastening their death, but also identifying those cases where nobody really thinks it’s in the public interest to prosecute”.
Sarah Wootton, of euthanasia lobby group Dignity in Dying, said the guidance “will represent a significant breakthrough in our campaign for greater choice and control at the end of life”.
Dr Peter Saunders of Care Not Killing said the group would study the new guidance.
“We would not expect, as has been implied in some quarters, that they will offer immunity from prosecution for assistance with suicide in particular circumstances”, said Dr Saunders.
The new guidance comes as a result of a legal challenge brought by assisted suicide campaigner Debbie Purdy.
Miss Purdy, who suffers from multiple sclerosis, wants to know under what circumstances her husband could be prosecuted if he helped her travel overseas to commit suicide.
More than 100 Britons have now ended their lives in Switzerland with help from Dignitas, a controversial assisted suicide group.
Dignitas has been accused of assisting people to end their lives because they were depressed or considered themselves to be a burden.
The group has reportedly also helped with suicides in cars and campervans.
The Swiss government has become increasingly worried about the perception of Switzerland as a destination for “suicide tourism” and moves are expected to clamp down on the practice.