Supreme Court challenge to assisted suicide guidance

A wheelchair-bound disability campaigner who previously wished to die has launched a legal challenge in the Supreme Court against proposed guidelines on prosecuting assisted suicide cases.

Alison Davis claims the legal ruling that resulted in the guidelines being issued was unsound due to “apparent bias” on the part of one of the judges.

In July five Law Lords, including Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, ruled in favour of assisted suicide campaigner Debbie Purdy’s demand for official guidance on the application of the law.

The decision required the Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer QC, to produce a “custom built policy statement” outlining the circumstances in which he would prosecute someone for assisting a suicide.

However, after the ruling Lord Phillips told The Daily Telegraph that he had “enormous sympathy” with anyone who preferred to “end their life more swiftly and avoid [a prolonged] death as well as avoiding the pain and distress that might cause their relatives”.

In legal papers Miss Davis alleges that Lord Phillips’ personal opinion affected the ruling.She argues that “the expression of the private ‘political’ view of Lord Phillips in The Daily Telegraph after the judgment clearly raises a question in the minds of reasonable and informed people of apparent bias.”

In a separate letter accompanying her case papers Miss Davis attacked the assisted suicide guidelines saying: “The DPP’s guidelines are unfair, unjust and fatally discriminatory against suffering people, who deserve the same presumption in favour of life as any able bodied person would automatically receive.

“They have no place in a civilised society.”

Miss Davis suffers from spina bifida, hydrocephalus, emphysema, osteoporosis and arthritis.

She attempted to commit suicide several times and for 10 years “had a settled wish to die”.

She now runs a charity called Enable to help children with disabilities in India.

Miss Davis’s legal action is being backed by the Christian Legal Centre (CLC).

Andrea Williams, Director of the CLC, said: “This is an extraordinary action for extraordinary times.

“Disabled people have always had the protection of the law and disabled people are now appealing to the highest court in the land in an attempt to retain this protection.”

A spokesman for the UK Supreme Court said: “Lord Phillips has not called for a change in the law.

“He simply expressed sympathy with anyone who was considering ending their life because they had a terminal illness. He made it clear that this was his personal view.”

The DPP’s draft guidance, currently open for public consultation, has already come under fire.

Last month a group of leading lawyers, Peers and former judges labelled the guidelines “not fit for purpose”.

The British Medical Association has also expressed concern.

The consultation on the guidelines will run until the 16 December.

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