The definition of assisted suicide is established under section 2(1) of the Suicide Act 1961 as being when ‘A person who aids, abets, counsels or procures the suicide of another…’ these are the situations someone would be found guilty of when assisting suicide. However, some circumstances may arise where the law is questioned and comes under scrutiny from the Director of Public Prosecutors (DPP), who is the head of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) as they have the power to change the law regarding assisted suicide. Under the current law Parliament cannot make other amendments in this area; is it right that the law-making body does not have an impact on such decisions?
Section 2(1) of the Suicide Act 1961 defined assisting suicide but when the case of R (On the application of Purdy) V DPP came to court; there was a potential problem in the law. Debbie Purdy who suffered from Multiple sclerosis, wanted to know if her husband Omar Puente would be prosecuted if he attends a Dignitas Clinic with her in Switzerland. She felt that ‘it is a breach of her human rights’ under Article 8 of the Human Rights Act, ‘right to respect for and private family life.’ Purdy felt was being breached by the DPP. It was clear from this case that there was different of opinions with the Suicide Act 1961 and the Human Rights Act regarding assisting suicide. This resulted in the DPP making ‘an offence specific assisted suicide policy document’ which sets out factors which are in favour of prosecution and factors which are against. An example factor in favour of prosecuting would be: the victim was under 18 years of age. An example factors against prosecution is: the suspect was wholly motivated by compassion. This could be viewed as a way of making assisted suicide seem acceptable but the factors for and against clarify when it is lawful. In the case of Daniel James, the 23 year old became paralysed following a rugby incident and thus became suicidal. His parents had tried...
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