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UK Publishes New Rules for Assisted Suicide


As new guidelines are being published, the people in England are becoming less fearful of prosecution when it comes time for assisted suicide. Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer in the UK states assisted suicide remains illegal, but states that there are several factors that would make it less likely that prosecutors would bring criminal charges in individual cases.

Starmer said prosecutors will still evaluate each case for possible prosecution. One key indicator though will be whether the suspect was acting wholly out of compassion, or had a darker motive. "The policy is now more focused on the motivation of the suspect rather than the characteristics of the victim," he said. "The policy does not change the law on assisted suicide. It does not open the door for euthanasia."

He said prosecutors will examine each case on its merits. "In cases where there is enough evidence to justify a prosecution, we have to decide whether it is in the public interest to prosecute," he said. "That involves an exercise of discretion."

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Starmer stressed other factors would also make criminal charges less likely, including victims who had made a voluntary and informed decision to end their lives, suspects who reported the suicide to police and admitted their role, and cases where a suspect tried in vain to convince the victim not to choose suicide.

Starmer listed 16 factors that would make criminal action more probable, including cases where the victim was under 18, did not have the capacity to make an informed decision to end their life or had been pressured by the suspect to commit suicide. Prosecution would also be more likely in cases where the suspect had been guilty of violence or abuse toward the victim or when the victim did not seek the help of the suspect in the suicide.

In the US, THREE states have abolished the common law of crimes and do not have statutes criminalizing assisted suicide, Ohio, which ruled that Physician assisted suicide (PAS) is not a crime in 1996. Oregon since 1997 has allowed people who are terminally ill to end their chronic suffering and Washington whose voters passed the initiative 2008 and the Montana Supreme Court legalized PAS in a decision handed down on 2009-DEC-31.

Everyone is watching as assisted suicide is such a controversial topic world wide and it appears everyone is watching as UK as it publishes new rules for assisted suicide.