Tuesday, 23 February 2010


Writing in The Daily Telegraph, the Prime Minister says that changing the law to permit assisted suicide would run the risk of putting the frail and ill under pressure to end their lives.

His warning comes a day before Keir Starmer, the Director of Public Prosecutions, will set out final guidelines on assisted suicide. He is expected to make it clear that those who help others end their lives are unlikely to face court action if they acted out of compassion. The guidelines, which follow a series of high-profile court cases, are seen by many as effectively decriminalising assisted suicide by the back door.

Mr Brown says that while Mr Starmer should be free to clarify the legal guidelines on assisted suicide, the law itself should not be altered by Parliament.

Creating a legal “right” to die, no matter what safeguards were in place, would put unacceptable pressure on the sick and old, Mr Brown claims.

“Let us be clear: death as an option and an entitlement, via whatever bureaucratic processes a change in the law on assisted suicide might devise, would fundamentally change the way we think about death,” he says.

“The risk of pressures – however subtle – on the frail and the vulnerable, who may for example feel their existences burdensome to others, cannot ever be entirely excluded.”

Two attempts to legalise assisted suicide have failed in the House of Lords in recent years. Mr Brown suggests that, rather than heralding a change in the law, Mr Starmer’s guidance could weaken the case for new attempts to legalise assisted suicide.

“I believe that because of the clarification of the public interest factors now being discussed, and because of some important developments in care over recent decades, the case for a change in the law is now weaker,” he says. “I know in my heart that there is such a thing as a good death. And I believe it is our duty as a society… to use the laws we have well, rather than change them.”

Mr Brown also warns that any move to give doctors and nurses greater freedom to end the lives of the sick and old would harm the medical professions.

“The inevitable erosion of trust in the caring professions – if they were in a position to end life – would be to lose something very precious,” he says.

Mr Brown has consistently opposed legislative changes on assisted suicide, and the strength and timing of his intervention today could be seen as a signal to Mr Starmer not to go too far. Mr Starmer will issue new guidance on the circumstances in which someone is likely to be charged if they help another person to die. Lawyers have pointed out that there is no precedent for prosecutors to set out in such detail the ways in which people can commit a crime and avoid being charged.

Pointedly, Mr Brown does not express support for Mr Starmer’s decision. “It is for him to clarify his approach and the Government has not made any representation to him,” he says.

Rather than alter the rules on assisted suicide, Mr Brown says that more must be done to address the fears many people have of a slow painful death, or of becoming a burden on their family in old age. “I believe that a duty of government is to minimise the fear of dying badly,” Mr Brown says.

A poll for The Daily Telegraph found last month that four out of five people believed that relatives should be allowed to help terminally ill loved ones take their own lives.

Mr Brown conceded that recent high-profile cases had bolstered public support for a change in the rules on assisted dying.

Earlier this year, a judge criticised the Crown Prosecution Service for bringing a case against Kay Gilderdale, who was found not guilty of the attempted murder of her daughter, Lynn, 31, who suffered from the neurological condition ME.

“Cases now dominating the public arena make harrowing reading and the first and most obvious response is to say that something must be done,” he says.

“But when these complex, individual and distressing cases are considered in detail, a solution that at first seems sensible – the right to die in a manner and at a time of one’s choosing – swiftly becomes less straightforward and more worrying.”

Aiding or abetting another to end their life is punishable by up to 14 years in prison under the 1961 Suicide Act.

Mr Brown said his thinking on the issue had been informed by the work of Dame Cecily Saunders, the founder of the hospice movement who died in 2005.

Her work brought about advances in palliative care, improving the lives of the sick and old in their final days.

Further progress in that area, Mr Brown says, is more important than changing the law to make it easier for people to die.


Zoompad said...

Just so glad to see Mr Brown speaking up about this.

Lard Falconer and all his horrible cronies will not be pleased, but Mr Brown will get so much support off ordinary people for this, and when the media is ungagged and everyone finally is able to see what has been going on, they will see that he did want the job of PM for all the right reasons.

I know Gordon Brown is a good man at heart, and I know I've been a bit naughty with some of the videos I made about him, like Dithering Heights, but it was only because I just desperatly wanted to try to show him the corruption in the judiciary and especially the secret family courts and the Liverpool Care Pathway. Thats why we bloggers have been nagging him so much.

So glad that he has written this, praise the Lord, I just hope he will be even braver and spill the beans even more.

As for his bad temper, well, there are certain circumstances where it is nice to see a man with a bit of punch, especially if the clumping fist is aimed towards slimy lardy cunning foxlike paedophile loving murderous decietful two faced scumbags. If he starts wreaking his frustrations on that kind of character, then I don't suppose anyone with any good sense will really mind at all, in fact, he'd most likely get a massive round of applause and end up getting carried on shoulders to the tune of "For he's a jolly good fellow!"

Zoompad said...

They have been stabbing Mr Brown in the back. They have been so manipulative, and it is so bloody sneaky and clever the way they have done it.

They use the same scummy tactics all the time, so once you have been stung you can see how these bas*ards operate.

They push people into a corner, then they all stand back and look so innocent and pally wally, as if butter would not melt in their mouths. They work in a pack, with their diabolical little secret meetings.

They think no-one can see them, but God sees everything they do.

I think its great that they tried to pull off this latest piece of nastiness, the National Bullying Helpline. Theres a saying that the devil always oversteps his mark.

The British public are not so dim as those arrogant dirtbags suppose!

Zoompad said...

Well, maybe I am a bit naive. I read his books and thought he was a decent man. Perhaps I was wrong.