UK PM opposes assisted suicide bill ahead of Parliament debates

The United Kingdom’s Prime Minister David Cameron has expressed his opposition to an assisted suicide bill before the issue is debated in Parliament

Mr Cameron argued that people who are terminally ill will feel unfairly pressurised into ending their lives.

Mr Cameron has opposed assisted dying before, but he was speaking out because a private members’ bill drawn up by Lord (Charles) Falconer of Thoroton is due to be debated in the House of Lords in coming weeks.

The bill would allow terminally ill patients to end their lives if two doctors confirm they are unlikely to live more than six months.

It is modelled on the assisted suicide law in Oregon in the United States.

Mr Cameron said that any vote in the House of Commons would be a free vote.

He voiced concerns over patients coming under pressure, but said the House of Lords is doing useful work by debating this and bringing out some of the arguments.

Lord Falconer told The Tablet: “My bill contains safeguards to prevent people being pressured. It is better than current law where any investigation on pressure only takes place after death.”

But opponents to the move – including Lord Carlile of Berriew and Baroness Butler-Sloss – say the safeguards are inadequate.

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

Several previous attempts to legislate on the issue in the UK have failed.

Assisted suicide remains a criminal offence in England and Wales, technically punishable by up to 14 years in prison.

Guidelines issued by the Director of Public Prosecutions in 2010 indicated that anyone acting with compassion on the will of a dying person was unlikely to face criminal charges.

Since then, around 90 such cases have been examined and no one prosecuted.

But supporters of assisted suicide say a formal legislative change is long overdue to clarify the law and reduce unnecessary suffering.

Observers estimate that just over a third of MPs would back a change in the law, a smaller group is strongly opposed, and up to 40 per cent are undecided.



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