Monday, January 02, 2012

Introduction to The Falconer Report

Another three days until we see the 'Falconer Report' prepared by the Commission on Assisted Dying, which Lord Falconer chairs. His Lordship has written an introductory piece in today's Telegraph, which was rather more balanced than I'd expected. Impression I get from reading it is that the issue does not seem quite as straightforward to the advocates of legalising Assisted Suicide as they expected it to be.

Members of the Commission have travelled to Switzerland where the Report will state that a total of 160 UK residents have gone to commit suicide. They did not like what they saw. Lord Falconer also refers to the experience of Holland, which I know little about yet. And Oregon where we know that since assisted suicide was legalised the number of cases has quadrupled, and is now between 1000-1200 per year. It seems that the assisted suicide in Oregon involves the taking of around 90 tablets.

The issue that the Commission is supposed to have looked at is whether the current law works - imperfect as it is. The Director of Public Prosecutions thinks it works. Since Keir Starmer 'clarified' where he would sanction prosecution two years ago, there have been 31 cases of assisted suicide (where the law has been broken) but not one prosecution where the 'assister' was thought to have acted with compassion. The DPP's 'guidelines' indicate that where a prospective defendant was motivated wholly by compassion, it is unlikely that a prosecution should be brought. The current system outlaws an action yet frequently allows it to take place unpunished - rather an odd interpretation I agree. But it works. Its highly unlikely that I could be persuaded to the legalisation of assisting suicide but I'm looking forwards to reading Lord Falconers Report on Thursday.

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