A Peer’s attempt to legalise assisted suicide is asking Parliament to sign a “blank cheque” regarding safeguards, three senior legal authorities have said.
Lord Falconer’s proposals have been roundly criticised by Baroness Butler-Sloss, the former head of the High Court Family Division, Lord Carlile QC and Lord Brennan QC, who say there is a lack of protections for vulnerable people in the Bill.
His Bill would allow doctors to give lethal drugs to patients who are believed to have less than six months to live.
In a paper published by campaign group Living and Dying Well, the three Peers argued that a change in the law would make it legal for people to “involve themselves in deliberately bringing about the deaths of others”.
They said the Bill contains no protections for assessing assisted suicide requests, leaving the “real safeguards” to be decided after it has been approved.
The report said: “But knowing what the proposed safeguards are and assessing their effectiveness is an integral part of Parliament’s consideration of the bill.”
“As it stands, the bill is asking Parliament to sign a blank cheque.”
They also said no evidence has been produced to show that the current law is not fit for purpose.
The Peers said: “Licensing doctors to supply lethal drugs to some of their patients to facilitate their suicides would represent a major change to the criminal law.”
The Living and Dying Well group has previously warned that Lord Falconer’s Bill fails the public safety test and is “wholly inadequate”.
They said the Bill ignores medical evidence about how unreliable the prognoses for terminal illnesses are, yet places responsibility for assessing assisted suicide requests with the medical profession.
Supporters of Lord Falconer’s proposals said the new law is not about encouraging suicide.
A spokesperson for pro-euthanasia group Dignity in Dying said: “Those opposed to the assisted dying bill have every right to raise their concerns, but in doing so they also have a responsibility to explain why some dying people should have to suffer against their wishes.”
The Assisted Dying Bill had its first reading in the House of Lords in May earlier this year, and is yet to be scheduled for its second reading.