26 July 2009
The question of assisted suicide and has raised its head again following the death of the conductor Sir Edward Downes and his wifeâ€™s mutual suicide, last week in Switzerland at Dignitas.
The British Council of Nurses, were virtually split down the middle, over the issue with 49% voting in favour of some sort of assistance within rigid guidelines. As a result of the BCN and decided to take a neutral stand on the issue — neither for nor against. The BMA on the other hand is implacably opposed.
It seems that the general opinion in the country is that there are around 75% in favour of assisted suicide in cases of severely diminished quality of life through sickness or terminal illness. It will be interesting to see the House Of Lords judgment in the Purdy case, due to be laid down, I believe, next week. I seem to recall that Mr. Purdy has MS and Mrs. P is seeking immunity from prosecution for assisting him to an early death, presumably to avoid further suffering.
Indeed, recent radio commentaries I have listened to have confirmed that no one to date has been prosecuted for assisting someone to commit suicide, despite the law making it a criminal offence which carries a maximum sentence of 14 years in prison.
(I covered this question of assisted suicide earlier in my diary, when the House of Lords decided on the Diana Pretty case â€“ see 23 May 2009 entry)