What an an intriguing legal conundrum. The crux is this:
Encouraging or assisting suicide is an offence under section 2 of the Suicide Act 1961, carrying a maximum penalty of 14 years’ imprisonment. On a literal reading of the Act, even obtaining information about euthanasia for someone who plans to commit suicide could constitute a breach of section 2.
This is especially applicable to health care professionals and those “persons in authority”.
And so the question becomes: Are those lawyers, acting on behalf of those wishing to commit suicide, in danger of ‘encouraging or assisting suicide’?
This is such a concern for lawyers acting for “Martin” – a stroke victim with locked-in-syndrome – seeking to amend the Director of Public Prosecutions’s 2010 guidelines on assisted suicide, they have sought, and received, an “exceptional” legal declaration, protecting them from prosecution.
The lawyers are now free to research assisted suicide methods and give “Martin” advice in this regard, as well as contact Dignitas and help him identify anyone – including professionals – willing to help him commit suicide.
Lord Justice Toulson is quoted as saying:
This is a tragic case, it raises thorny legal and ethical issues.
Isn’t that the truth.
Tags: Law Moral Ethical