The legalisation of assisted suicide “should be for Parliament itself to decide freely” rather than the courts, a law tutor at the University of Oxford has warned.
Writing in The Spectator online, Professor Richard Ekins was responding to the ongoing media coverage of a legal case involving assisted suicide campaigner Noel Conway.
Ekins said: “Any attempt to use the courts to pressure Parliament to change the law risks politicising the courts and distorting parliamentary democracy.”
“This continuing attempt to use the courts, with the encouragement of some (but certainly not all) judges, to usurp Parliament’s freedom to decide what the law should be is a constitutional travesty”, he added.
Ekins, who is also the Head of the Judicial Power Project at the independent think-tank Policy Exchange, commended a parliamentary debate on the matter in 2015, which he said was “far-reaching and impressive”.
Rob Marris’ Private Members’ Bill to legalise assisted suicide was defeated at the time in the House of Commons by 330 votes to 118.
Ekins wrote: “MPs considered the case for changing the law and a large majority found it wanting, partly because they were not persuaded it was feasible to design a system that would protect vulnerable people from being encouraged (or coerced) to kill themselves.”
He added that Parliament should “decide for itself” what the law should be, regardless of what the outcome of Conway’s case is.
Last week, Baroness Finlay and Lord Carlile of Berriew of campaign group Living and Dying Well cautioned against a change in the law in a letter published by The Times.
They said that Mr Conway and his backers were demanding “a right to involve others in bringing about our deaths. That is a different matter and parliament has been right to view it with scepticism.”
And on Channel 4 News, Mandy Colleran of Not Dead Yet UK said legalising assisted suicide would be a “dangerous precedent” to set.
Speaking to Channel 4 newsreader Jon Snow, Colleran, who is herself disabled, said: “Ending people’s lives, giving them assisted suicide is not an appropriate way to look at giving people dignified care.”
“What we’re arguing is: we want dignified lives for people that end up having dignified deaths as well”, she added.