Straw: I oppose assisted suicide

Justice Secretary Jack Straw has made clear his opposition to any attempt to weaken the current law on assisted suicide.

A bid to change the law failed in the House of Lords recently amid concerns about the danger it could pose to vulnerable people.

The Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer, will soon unveil new guidance on how the law applies when relatives are helped to end their lives in overseas suicide clinics.

Commenting on the issue in an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Mr Straw said: “I’m not in favour of changing the law.

“That would give a green light to assisted suicide, and my worry has always been the potential for abuse.

“I’ve had some experience of loved ones in the terminal stages of illness. I don’t think you should give relatives that discretion.

“I just think it’s wrong to consider assisting someone in suicide. It’s not something I’m willing to contemplate.”

Commenting on the forthcoming DPP guidance, he said Mr Starmer “has to apply himself to the law”.

“I’m sure he has no intention of using prosecutorial discretion to overturn its purpose.”

Mr Starmer was ordered by the Law Lords earlier this year to produce a “custom-built policy statement” outlining the factors he would take into account before prosecuting in cases of overseas assisted suicide.

The ruling came as the result of a case brought by multiple sclerosis sufferer Debbie Purdy, with the backing of a euthanasia lobby group.

Miss Purdy wants to know whether her husband, Omar Puente, will be prosecuted if he helps her travel to a Swiss suicide clinic.

Campaigners have warned that any move to undermine the law would put many vulnerable people at risk.

Last week, the out-going Chief Constable in South Wales, Barbara Wilding, said the police would have to watch changes in the law carefully to make sure assisted suicide did not become a way for relatives to get rid of a burden.

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