A Bill seeking to legalise assisted suicide in England and Wales is being proposed by a Member of the House of Lords.
Baroness Meacher’s Private Members’ Bill – which has not yet been scheduled for debate – would permit those expected to have six months left to live to get help to kill themselves. Their request would need approval from two doctors and a High Court judge.
In 2015, a Bill to remove current safeguards was soundly defeated in the House of Commons by 330 votes to 118. The Assisted Suicide (Scotland) Bill was also rejected by 82 votes to 36 in the Scottish Parliament during the same year.
Last month, 70 MPs and Peers signed an open letter to the Lord Chancellor highlighting the dangers of changing the law.
The letter stated: “There are escalating numbers of deaths over time in every jurisdiction [where assisted suicide has been legalised] and in almost all places the categories of those who qualify for assisted suicide or euthanasia have been expanded.”
It noted that in the Netherlands: “We see how laws which were supposed to be limited to mentally competent terminally ill adults, now allow the euthanasia of non-mentally competent adults; disabled children aged under 12 months; disabled adults; and even those with treatable psychiatric problems such as depression and anorexia.”
The signatories said that, rather than “resorting to the dangerous expedient of assisted suicide, we should focus our attention on ensuring that everyone has access to top-quality palliative care”.
Under the current law, a person who intentionally encourages or assists the suicide or attempted suicide of another person commits an offence which carries a maximum prison sentence of 14 years.
In April, Christian MP Danny Kruger backed the launch of an all-party parliamentary group to oppose assisted suicide in the UK.
Writing in The Sunday Telegraph, Kruger said: “Once you have conceded, legally, the right of some people to request official help to kill themselves, that right quickly becomes universal.”