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Debate to be held on assisted suicide law
PLANS which could make it legal for terminally-ill adults with less than six months to live to choose to kill themselves have taken a step closer to completion.
Legislation has been drawn up by former lord chancellor Lord Falconer which would overturn the law that anyone who helps someone end their own life can face up to 14 years in prison.
In 2007 Worcester rugby player Daniel James travelled to a clinic in Switzerland to kill himself after suffering an injury during play which lad left him paralysed from the neck down.
Although the parents of the 23-year-old from Sinton Green travelled with him to the clinic run by the Dignitas organisation where he took a poison called pentobarbital the Crown Prosecution Service decided not to prosecute them.
Following Mr James’ death the Director of Public Prosecutions issued guidelines in 2010 saying anyone acting with compassion on the will of a dying person was unlikely to face criminal charges.
However, if the law passes through the House of Commons, it will not apply to cases such as Mr James’, as he was not suffering a terminal illness.
Both David Cameron and Nick Clegg have said they oppose a change in the law following concerns that people suffering from terminal illnesses would be left vulnerable to pressure from others to end their lives, but MPs have been told they will be allowed to vote freely in the issue when it is debated in Parliament at a date to be set.
Liberal Democrat care minister Norman Lamb has backed the move, saying he believed there was "quite widespread public support" for ending what he called a "cruel" system.
Speaking on the Murnaghan programme on Sky News, Mr Lamb said: "Can we really be comfortable with a situation where people, acting out of compassion for a loved one who is dying, are left uncertain as to whether they will face prosecution?
"There need to be proper safeguards - that's critically important."
"You have absolutely got to guard against relatives or others seeking to get control of the estate. We have to be certain that it is an individual decision.”
But a spokesman for anti-euthanasia alliance Care Not Killing said the organisation was firmly opposed to a change in the law.
"What we should be discussing is how we ensure equal access to good quality medical care and life-saving and preserving drugs rather than once again debating a law that has been discussed and voted on numerous times since 2006,” he said.
Daniel James’ family declined to comment.
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