Assisted suicide policy will threaten vulnerable people

Campaigners are warning that the publication of a draft prosecuting policy on assisted suicide will undermine the right to life of disabled people. The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) is due to issue his guidelines on assisted suicide on Wednesday.

Paul Tully, general secretary of SPUC, commented: "Earlier this year parliament voted against changing the law even to permit assistance in travelling abroad to commit suicide. Now the legal authorities are forcing a weakening of the law against helping people to kill themselves. There is a democratic deficit in their action.

"The failure in recent years of public authorities, particularly the DPP, to take effective action to prevent high-profile assisted suicides of sick & disabled people has helped to weaken the law. Media focus on such cases has distorted public perception of how and why most suicides happen. Many people know there are around 10 suicides by British people in Zurich each year, but few are aware of the 5,000-6,000 other suicides to which the media usually gives no attention. Even less media attention is given to the estimated 170,000 instances of self-harm dealt with by hospitals

"Despite all the denials, we fear DPP's new policy will undermine the confidence and the status of people with disabilities. The courts, the media, the euthanasia lobby and members of the medical establishment all regard those living with disability or long-term suffering as the sort of people to be helped to die.

"The Department of Health's suicide strategy which was established in 2002 is called the National Suicide Prevention Strategy for England This is an important initiative but it makes little or no reference to disabled people.

"It seems that we will have a two-tier strategy. There will be one approach for people we think worth saving, and another for people with disability or chronic illness. Their suicidal feelings will be affirmed by giving them a right to choose assisted suicide. Suicide is the ultimate act of despair and should always be resisted", concluded Mr Tully.

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