Lord Chancellor: Legalised assisted suicide ‘open to abuse’

Lord Chancellor Robert Buckland QC has said he has “grave doubts” about any weakening of the assisted suicide law.

Activists have been pushing for the current protection against assisted suicide to be removed, but many fear the vulnerable will suffer.

Now Buckland, who is Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, has expressed his personal concerns and said the Government has no plans for a review of the law.

Not watertight

Writing to Dr Gordon Macdonald, the CEO of pro-life group Care Not Killing, Mr Buckland said it was not the place of Government policy to dictate a change.

“Personally, I have grave doubts about the ability of legislation to be watertight when it comes to the potential for abuse.

“But, as Lord Chancellor, you will understand that, whatever my personal view, I must listen to all sides of the debate on this complex issue.”

‘Delighted’

Dr Macdonald told the Institute he was “delighted” by the Lord Chancellor’s statement.

He said: “The current law works well. It balances a strong deterrent against abuse whilst allowing a compassionate response to those who are in very distressing and difficult circumstances and experiencing terminal illness.

“We do not believe that doctors should be encouraged to kill their patients or to help them to commit suicide.

“That would be a very retrograde step which would place many vulnerable people at risk of abuse and put pressure on those with terminal and chronic illnesses and on the disabled to end their lives prematurely.”

Vulnerable

In 2015, Parliament debated changing the law and resoundingly voted against such a move by 330 to 118.

Conservative MP Fiona Bruce said the proposed legislation used “disingenuous” language.

Labour MP Lyn Brown voted against the Bill because it would “fundamentally change the way our society thinks” about the vulnerable.

Watch highlights from the debate

Sanctity of life

At the end of last year, the High Court rejected an attempt to legalise assisted suicide.

Phil Newby – who has Motor Neurone Disease – argued that the current ban interfered with his rights under the European Convention on Human Rights.

But High Court judges refused the challenge saying the court is “not an appropriate forum for the discussion of the sanctity of life”.

Mr Newby made an appeal for a judicial review, but this request was denied last week.

Related Resources