Suicide law ‘is like a push at the edge’

A Sunday Times columnist has compared an attempt to allow assisted suicide with encountering someone about to kill themselves and showing them a good place to jump.

Dominic Lawson refers in his article to the tragic death of Neil and Kazumi Puttick last week. The couple died after jumping off Beachy Head in Cornwall with their young son, Sam, who had died of meningitis two days earlier.

Challenging his readers as to whether or not they would intervene to dissuade them, he asked: “Or would you tell them that it was no one’s right to question their decision or the reasons for it; that, in fact, you knew the best spot to leap off to avoid any possibility of landing safely on a ledge and would be happy to lead them to it?”

Mr Lawson compares the latter attitude to that of assisted suicide advocates, and in particular the supporters of Lord Falconer’s current attempt to legalise the practice.

Lord Falconer’s amendment to the Coroners and Justice Bill would allow assisted suicide if a person is taken overseas to end their life and two doctors agree the person is terminally ill and has the capacity to make a declaration.

It could be the subject of a vote in the House of Lords in the next few days.

Mr Lawson points out that not only is Lord Falconer’s amendment dangerous in itself, but the case he cites in support of it points towards the further aims of the euthanasia lobby.

Lord Falconer referred to the case of Daniel James, a 23-year-old rugby player who was paralysed from the chest down after a training accident. Daniel wanted to commit suicide, but was not terminally ill when his parents took him to the Dignitas suicide facility in Switzerland.

“A cynic might suggest that this is a revealing slip, showing that he is already anticipating the inevitable next stage of the euthanasiasts’ campaign once this amendment is accepted,” he writes.

Dr Peter Saunders of the Care Not Killing alliance has also responded to Lord Falconer’s attempt.

In a letter to The Times , he questions the Peer’s suggestion that his amendment will allow people to help their “loved ones” travel to “a clinic” for assistance in dying.

The Dignitas ‘clinic’ in Switzerland, where more than 100 Britons have already committed suicide, is “no clinic at all”, he says.

“It is an apartment in which visitors are handed poison to drink — nothing more, nothing less.”

He adds: “It is dangerously naive to suppose that people who are helped to commit suicide are always ‘loved ones’.

“At the moment, with the Crown Prosecution Service able to review cases after the event, there is a deterrent that makes people with sinister motives stop and think before pressuring inconvenient relatives into removing themselves in this way. But Lord Falconer wants that deterrent removed.”

Both Dr Saunders and Mr Lawson warn that the amendment could lead to many more court cases to determine the true motives of people who ‘help’ others to commit suicide.

Mr Lawson picks up on Lord Falconer’s suggestion that his amendment, if successful, should be named after Debbie Purdy, the assisted suicide campaigner who suffers from multiple sclerosis.

Mr Lawson says: “Attractively modest though this may appear on the part of Charlie Falconer, I don’t think he should be allowed to get away with it.

“The amendment is so potentially dangerous that his name should be attached to it in perpetuity – just in case anyone forgets whom to blame when its shortcomings are ultimately revealed in the courts. “

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