Assisted suicide bid ‘not safe’ say Lords

Lord Falconer of Thoroton’s amendment to alter the law on assisted suicide is “foolhardy” and “ill-thought-out”, a group of Peers has warned.

Lord Falconer wants the law to change so those helping relatives travel to overseas suicide facilities to die escape prosecution.

But three of his fellow Peers, Lord Brennan, Baroness Butler-Sloss and Lord Mackay of Clashfern have written to The Times listing the flaws in the proposal.

“The law as it stands is clear, it is robust enough to deter and deal with coercion and abuse,” they write, “and it is administered with compassion in appropriate cases. It would be foolhardy to tinker with it in such an ill-thought-out way.”

Peers are expected to vote soon on amendments to the Coroners and Justice Bill which seek to change the law on assisted suicide.

Euthanasia campaigners have lobbied for some time for those helping others travel to commit suicide at the Dignitas facility in Switzerland to be exempted from the current ban on assisting suicide.

However, it recently emerged that several of the Britons who have so far committed suicide at the clinic were not terminally ill.

The Swiss government is reportedly considering banning facilities such as Dignitas because of the country’s growing reputation as a destination for “suicide tourism”.

Lord Lester recently wrote in defence of Lord Falconer’s amendment, claiming it contains “strict safeguards”.

But in their letter the three Peers say: “This is not so. The amendment does not define terminal illness — it would cover large numbers of disabled people as well as those who are genuinely in the final stages of their lives; it does not require the assessing doctors to have any expertise in the clinical condition in question; and it does not make clear how the capacity of an applicant to make a free declaration is to be assessed.

“And, once a declaration had been made and approved, there would be nothing to prevent the person concerned being pressured into going abroad to commit suicide if he or she should have second thoughts.”

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