Getty ImagesBy James Harris, director of campaigns and communications for Dignity in Dying
As is well documented, some dying Britons who consider their suffering unbearable travel abroad to die. Others take matters into their own hands domestically - based on research by the think tank Demos, around ten per cent of all suicides are by people who are chronically or terminally ill. How the law confronts this difficult area is one of the most fraught and important ethical issues we face today.
Prior to 1961 it was an offence to attempt to take your life. But society moved on, prosecutions dropped, and the law changed. The Suicide Act of 1961 decriminalised suicide and attempted suicide, and attempted to protect vulnerable people by introducing a new offence of assisted suicide - punishable by up to 14 years in prison. In doing so, parliament created a legal anomaly: an offence of assisting an act that is legal.
Nevertheless, this anomaly exists in part for good reason. There is universal agreementRead More »from Allowing assisted suicide is a matter of good conscience