Research Paper on Illegal Suicide-Physician-Assisted

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The current policy around death and dying is a highly emotive subject. One that is discussed time and time again. At the heart of this policy should be the person who is terminally ill. Most would want to see their loved ones have their dignity respected and prevent avoidable suffering, and be able to end their life as they see fit. To see another human being suffer at the end of their life is cruel, inhumane, and just prolongs the inevitable in a lot of cases.

Assisted dying and euthanasia are both illegal and are prohibited by the Suicide Act (1961) which states it is an offense for a person to encourage or assist the suicide (or attempted suicide) of another. Suicide or attempted suicide are not in themselves criminal offenses. There have been several legal cases regarding the offense of assisted suicide, particularly in the context of disabled or terminally ill people who are unable to end their lives without assistance from family, friends, or doctors. If found guilty of committing such an offence the sentence can be up to 14 years imprisonment. For the period of 1 April 2009 until 31 July 2021, the CPS has had 171 cases referred to them by the Police, recorded as assisted suicide, out of those only 11 of those cases are still ongoing.

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There have been many attempts to change the law over the last 8 years. The Assisted Suicide (Scotland) Bill (2013) would have allowed a person with a terminal, life-limiting, or life-shortening disease to end their life after being prescribed a life-ending medication by a doctor. Lord Falconers' Assisted Dying Bill (2014) proposed to allow terminally ill, mentally competent adults to have an assisted death after being approved by two doctors. Rob Marris' Assisted Dying Bill (2015) The MP introduced an Assisted Dying Bill based on Lord Falconer's Bill introduced in 2014. Currently, there is a bill on Assisted Dying which has been read for a second time in the House of Lords by Baroness Meacher. The sole aim of the Bill is to reduce unnecessary and unbearable suffering. Within the bill it states, 'whose suffering is beyond the reach of palliative care to dying well and on their own terms, should they choose it'. Safeguards against improper use of such a law are properly tight - the imminence of death and the approval of two individual doctors and a high court judge the objectives are constant - Comfort and Dignity. The motion was agreed to, and the bill was committed to a Committee of the Whole House, this reading took place on Friday 22nd October 2021 between 10.09 and 17.56.

There are many campaigners who are in favor of 'assisted dying' and state if death is inevitable then suffering should not be. Dying people deserve the choice to control the timing and manner of their death, so as to minimize their own suffering, the right to die is a private matter. When the dying process is painful and unpleasant for terminal illness - the right to shorten the process should be allowed. Euthanasia should be a means to have a better death at a time of choice by the patient. Sadly, not everyone is able to have their pain relieved during the terminal illness. Some would prefer to have the choice to die whilst fully alert and able to say goodbye in their homes without being semi-anesthetized on drugs whilst hooked up to machines in a medical establishment. 'Assisted dying' is legal in other parts of the world and some nationals who are keen to avoid suffering in the final stages chose to travel abroad. There are in fact other countries around the world that give terminally ill people the choice of an assisted death though many travel to Dignitas in Switzerland. The current law forces dying people to travel abroad earlier than they would choose out of fear of them being too unwell to travel later, and as this option is extremely costly potentially only the wealthy can afford it. 'Dignity in Dying' research states that over 300 suicides take place every year behind closed doors.

Those campaigners who are against 'assisted dying' suggest a person can simply be wrong about what they feel is in their best interests. The process of assisted dying has wider effects beyond the person themselves, including their family and the medical profession, who may feel pressured by the decision of their patients. They also say that improvements are being made all the time to pain relief and end-of-life care. Those for 'assisted dying' state the professionals who do not wish to support those wishing to die that are protected by law from any involvement in the process.

There are arguments around the issue of consent. Even if 'assisted dying' is limited to those diagnosed with a terminal illness, this diagnosis might still be wrong, or the prognosis of how quickly the disease will progress might be unclear. Also, the pain might be temporary, and better alternatives in terms of medical care and treatment. Campaigners express concerns that a person's request for assisted death may be a temporary 'cry for help', and that they may be depressed, or confused. They argue the option of euthanasia may lead people to prematurely end their lives for the wrong reason, as the person feels that they are becoming a burden on others, or worse, they are pressured to feel this by their relatives for reasons not related to their own welfare. Campaigners for 'assisted dying' appear to accept a number of these concerns.

There is also the fact around religions - notably, Christianity does not recognize the Right to Die - life is a divine gift. Suicide is seen as a sin. Supporters of assisted dying argue that a change in the law does not require Christians or other religious groups to end their lives through this process. In which is now a majority secular, several humanist campaigners, argue that it is totally inappropriate for a small minority of religious leaders to try and enforce their opinions on the wider population through law. It is also important to note that these views are not shared by all religious people, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Polls have also suggested that some 79% of religious people support the idea of regulated 'assisted dying' for the terminally ill.

There have been several landmark cases in the High Courts who wanted to have control of their own death but sadly this did not happen for them. Diane Pretty had Motor Neurone Disease (MND). She wanted to control the time and manner of her death.

Debbie Purdy had Multiple Sclerosis (MS). Shortly after her diagnosis in 1995, she began to think about how to have choice and control over her death.

Tony Nicklinson had a stroke in 2005. He was paralyzed and could only move his head and his eyes. For many years, he had wanted to end his life, but could not do so without help.

An individual known as Martin suffered a brainstem stroke in August. This left him almost completely unable to move. He wished to end his life by traveling abroad.

There have been reports surrounding 'Assisted dying' in the press recently which shed light from three different angles on the topic, all explaining the reasons why the law should be changed.

Tom Beagley-Spicer from Fleet returned from Dignitas having traveled with his mum so that she was able to take her own and he himself lived in constant fear following mum's death, that he would be arrested. He is now campaigning for the law to be changed so that other families do not go through what he did.

Crippled by illness, Dawn Voice-Cooper, 76, traveled to Switzerland to end her life at a clinic where she released a fatal dose of barbiturates into her bloodstream - she wanted The Mirror to be with her to tell her story, to show people all sides of the debate for the realities of an assisted death. Dawn was able to be surrounded by her friends, sip champagne, and listen to her favorite song. She then received her final wish for an assisted death.

Dr Cameron McLaren from Victoria, Southeast Australia has helped 43 patients die states he is not a killer and reveals why he does it in an interview with The Independent. He states 'That this is not killing and that cancer or underlying medical condition has already done that, it's about the ending of the life. Most people are between living and dying and desperate for the end, and this is providing them with that. These people are choosing to decide and control how that happens, and I don't agree with that being a wrong thing.'


It is without doubt that there needs to be appropriate guidance set out before considering changing the law of assisted dying. More importantly, significant intervention and communication from many medical professionals and all relevant organizations who know the individual need to consider how best to assist the specific individual, before allowing the death to take place. This specific law is not due to change overnight yet as time passes it becomes one step closer to becoming a possibility. Your life is your own and you should be allowed to decide how it ends.

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Research Paper on Illegal Suicide-Physician-Assisted. (2023, October 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved July 14, 2024, from
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