Terminally ill 'should have choice to die'
Published 05/01/2012 | 05:00
A PERSON suffering from a terminal illness who is likely to die within 12 months, is of sound mind and has a settled intention to die, should have the choice of an assisted death, according to a landmark report.
In a challenge to medical and legal organisations that have refused to back change, the Commission on Assisted Dying said the current law was "inadequate and incoherent" and should not continue.
The proposed new law would apply only to people who were terminally ill and not to those who were physically disabled, such as Daniel James, the paralysed rugby player who ended his life, aged 23, at the Swiss clinic Dignitas in 2008.
The privately organised inquiry, chaired by Charles Falconer, said the current law caused distress for the people affected and their families, was unclear for health and social care staff, and laid a "challenging burden" on police and prosecutors.
The inquiry proposed a new legal framework with strict criteria to determine who might be eligible for an assisted death.
Organisations opposed to assisted suicide attacked the findings. Dr Peter Saunders, campaign director of Care Not Killing, said the law did not need to be changed and branded the review "unnecessary, biased and. . . seriously flawed".
Mr Falconer said that although assisted suicide was outlawed in the UK, it was frequently allowed to take place without any protection to support people at a vulnerable time. Those without resources had been forced to take their lives early, he said, for fear that if they waited until they became incapable, their loved ones might be prosecuted for helping them to die.
The review was funded by Terry Pratchett, the best-selling novelist diagnosed with Alzheimer's in 2007.
Its independence was criticised, however, after the British Medical Journal pointed out that nine of the 12 commissioners had supported a change in the law to allow assisted suicide. (© Independent News Service)