Doctors who are involved in assisted suicide are now less likely to face criminal charges, according to concerning new guidance from the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).
Alison Saunders yesterday updated the Crown Prosecution Service’s policy on assisted suicide so that healthcare professionals who do not have a relationship of care with the victim are less likely to be charged.
Dr Peter Saunders, campaign director for Care Not Killing, said the DPP is “effectively at a stroke of her pen decriminalising assisted suicide by doctors and other health care professionals as long as they don’t have an existing professional care relationship with the patient.
“This weakens the protections for sick and vulnerable people and effectively gives a green signal to anyone in Europe wanting physician assisted suicide that Britain is open for business.
“It also opens the door to a Dignitas style death ‘clinic’ being set up in the UK”, he added.
Dr Saunders said the DPP should be “forced to go in front of Parliament” to explain why she has rewritten the current law “without apparently consulting anyone at all”.
The original DPP guidance, issued in 2010 after a public consultation, made it clear that any health professional who assisted with a suicide was at risk of facing prosecution.
Alison Saunders has updated the guidance in response to judicial comments made in the high profile euthanasia and assisted suicide case in the Supreme Court earlier this year.
Under the Suicide Act 1961 assisting or encouraging suicide is a criminal offence and carries a prison sentence of up to 14 years.
Earlier this year, a Bill to legalise assisted suicide for terminally ill patients thought to have six months or less to live was debated in the House of Lords.