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Lord Falconer To Table Assisted Suicide Bill

May 15, 2013

Labour peer Lord Falconer is to table a private members bill that will seek to legalise assisted suicide for the terminally ill.


Under the bill, assisted dying would be allowed in “strictly defined circumstances”.


It is expected only those aged 18 and over and who have had a terminal illness diagnosed would be able to request help to end their lives.


The government has said the issue is a matter of conscience for each MP.


Lord Falconer’s bill aims to legalise physician-assisted suicide for people who are terminally ill and mentally capable.

Doctor assessment

They would have to prove they have the mental capacity to make a voluntary and informed choice, were not being unduly influenced by others and had a “settled intention” about their wish to die.


Before proceeding, their condition would have to be independently assessed by two doctors as well as other healthcare professionals.


They would also have to be informed about alternative treatments and end-of-life care options.


Other safeguards being proposed include guarantees about the storage and transportation of lethal medication, the reporting of assisted deaths and the powers for cases of non-compliance to be investigated.


Last year a commission chaired by Lord Falconer, the former lord chancellor, concluded that a small number of people felt the extreme suffering caused by their condition could be relieved only by ending their own life or the knowledge they could do so.

Split opinion

The bill is supported by some groups, such as Dignity in Dying.


However, it is opposed by others who point to rises in assisted suicides following legalisation in places such as Oregon in the US.


Assisted suicide is illegal in England and Wales, and peers rejected calls for legalisation in 2006 and 2009.


Any change in the law is likely to be strongly opposed by Church of England bishops sitting in the House of Lords.


The British Medical Association has also rejected calls for it to soften its opposition to assisted dying.


Private members’ bills rarely become law unless they are supported by the government of the day.


Assisted suicide is legal in Switzerland, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg.

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