The prosecution guidelines are dangerous. They establish the rules that people will follow to be directly and intentionally involved with killing another person. The guidelines falsely
When considering the increase in the incidence of elder abuse and the purpose of the assisted suicide law, which is to protect people from others, it is clear that these guidelines are a recipe for elder abuse that will lead to further abuses of the law.
The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition would consider these guidelines helpful if they were sentencing guidelines. Since there is no minimum sentence for assisted suicide in the UK (or Canada), therefore guidelines, such as these, would help the judge determine the factors that should be considered when sentencing a person who was convicted of assisted suicide.
The assisted suicide prosecution guidelines list 16 factors that would favour prosecution for assisted suicide in the UK and 6 factors that are deemed to not be in the public interest for prosecution.
Dr Robin Mackenzie, from the University of Kent, stated that rules have to distinguish clearly between assisting someone to die and taking the life of someone in a so-called mercy killing.
Dr MacKenzie argued that under the six factors outlined in the new guidelines there could be problems in finding evidence to justify non-prosecution.
“It is likely to be problematic insofar as the evidence will be provided by the person who claims they assisted suicide,” she said.
While introducing the assisted suicide prosecution guidelines Starmer stated:
"Assessing whether a case should go to court is not simply a question of adding up the public interest factors for and against prosecution and seeing which has the greater number. It is not a tick-box exercise. Each case has to be considered on its own facts and merits."
"As a result of the consultation exercise there have been changes to the policy. But that does not mean prosecutions are more or less likely. The policy has not been relaxed or tightened but there has been a change of focus."
Link to the Prosecution Guidelines:http://www.cps.gov.uk/publications/prosecution/assisted_suicide_policy.html
As much as he is stating that these guidelines will not prevent a person from being prosecuted, he is certainly explaining to lawyers in the UK the line of defense that they will need to follow, if and when prosecutions occur.
Dr Peter Saunders, the director of the Care Not Killing Alliance, said the final rules were an improvement on those published in September. But he added: 'How will a prosecutor decide if someone's motives are wholly compassionate?
The Care Not Killing Alliance stated in their media release:
The guidelines also make clear that no one who assists a suicide must expect to be prosecuted. It states that “a prosecution will usually take place unless the prosecutor is sure that there are public interest factors tending against prosecution that outweigh those tending in favour”. In other words, unless there are clear and compelling reasons not to prosecute, you will end up before the courts.
The new guidelines are not without their weaknesses. For example, it is not at all clear how it is to be established in any case of assisted suicide that “the suspect was wholly motivated by compassion” (one of the six factors against prosecution). But their general tenor is one of good sense and they show greater concern for public safety than did the earlier 'interim' version.
Publishing final guidelines is not, however, the end of the matter. It remains to be seen how they will be implemented. The CPS has shown recently, in the case of Kay Gilderdale, that it will not hesitate to prosecute where necessary. What is needed now, to maintain public confidence in the protection of the law, is total transparency of CPS prosecution decisions in cases of assisted suicide.
Link to the response by the Care Not Killing Alliance in the UK:http://www.carenotkilling.org.uk/?show=876
George Pitcher who comments in a blog that is published in the Telegraph.co.uk was more upbeat about the new assisted suicide prosecution guidelines. He stated:
It's a dark day for the assisted-death lobbyists at Dignity in Dying. Lord Falconer, whose attempt to get assisted suicide legalised in the House of Lords failed last year, will be wobbling with rage that Keir Starmer QC, the Director of Public Prosecutions, has turned out not to be the Law Lords' poodle by undermining the Suicide Act 1961, with his assisted-suicide prosecution policy.
Link to George Pitcher's blog comments: http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/georgepitcher/100027504/rejoice-dpp-deals-severe-blow-to-dignity-in-dyings-hopes-for-assisted-suicide/
The disability perspective was clearly stated by Clair Lewis in her blog under the title: Getting away with murder: Discriminatory how-to guide is a national disgrace. Stephen Drake from Not Dead Yet republished Lewis's blog comments and stated - There are many reactions and lots of commentary out there, but by far the best I've read so far is from Clair Lewis:
In an unprecedented move, the Director of Public Prosecutions will release his special guide on how British citizens can aid and abet suicides with his approval.. as long as they only do it to the people he's selected as fit for death.
Helping end someone's life is a crime, which usually carries a 14 year prison sentence, but not so if the corpse is one of someone who was very sick and they were 'asking for it'. In which case, judging by recent news and the killers walking free among us, you get freedom and national hero status.
Now we will all have a neat little guide to help us kill our loved ones right.. to CPS standards. State approved Assisted Suicide Kits aren't available, but then, it takes time to organise given how many hundreds of thousands of very sick people must need their family's 'help'.
A fundamentally ridiculous, contradictory and terrifying belief has taken over society which suggests people can have better equality, or lives by being dead.. or even killed through a discriminatory law made just for us. Impressive work, but very dangerous. Several times lately I have wanted to pinch myself to check if I was dreaming. But no, the DPP is really producing this guide and the public really do think it is different and more acceptable to kill someone who is sick, or to 'assist' their suicide than it would be if it were anyone else. All other suicidal people in this country are entitled to HELP and killings and suicide facilitators are prosecuted heavily.
It's not nice being a disabled person today looking around me, wondering which four in every five citizens is happy to kill a relative.. wondering which four of my five relatives would be happy to kill me. I am living in a country which is happy to make it easier to kill the old and sick, whilst absolutely not caring what the majority of people this law would put at risk have to say on the matter. Even though the scientific evidence (as opposed to the imaginings of most of the British non-disabled public) shows that people concerned don't want or need this law - apart from a very few poster children whose fear, misery and internalised oppression the euthanasia movement are taking advantage of.
Link to the blog comments by disability leader Clair Lewis: http://clairlewis.livejournal.com/17981.html
Alison Davis, the national co-ordinator of the disability rights group in the UK, No Less Human, commented on the case of Kay Gilderdale who pled guilty to aiding the suicide of her daughter Lynn. Davis, who had attempted suicide in the past, stated:
Twenty-five years ago, like Lynn, I decided I wanted to die. It was a settled wish.
Unlike hers, however, my wish to die lasted ten years. During those years I attempted suicide more than once. On occasion, I was treated against my will by doctors, who saved my life. Then, I was angry with them. Now, I’m grateful.
If I had died, I would have missed the best years of my life, though I still have pain, worse now than it was when I wanted to die.
Additionally, no one would ever have known that the future held something better for me, not in terms of physical ability, but in the support and love of friends.
My experience shows that it’s possible to come out on the other side and to demonstrate that life is worth living.
The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition realizes that the euthanasia lobby will exploit the weaknesses in the prosecution guidelines. We expect that the euthanasia lobby will attempt to undermine the guidelines by exploiting the "hard cases" by supporting "courageous" members to intentionally break the law to test the Prosecution Guidelines and the legal system.
The assisted suicide prosecution guidelines have left the justice system exposed. The guidelines use vague and misleading terminology to define factors, such as, *the victim had reached a voluntary, clear, settled and informed decision to commit suicide (someone can be subtly pressured) or the perpetrator *was "wholly motivated by compassion" (how could that ever be determined). A good defense lawyer will be able to use these guidelines to further underline the purpose of the law which is to protect people from others who either think they know better, or are carefully taking advantage of a relationship that brings them benefit.
The assisted suicide prosecution guidelines in the UK:
The sixteen public interest factors in favour of prosecution are:
* The victim was under 18 years of age.
* The victim did not have the capacity (as defined by the Mental Capacity Act 2005) to reach an informed decision to commit suicide.
* The victim had not reached a voluntary, clear, settled and informed decision to commit suicide.
* The victim had not clearly and unequivocally communicated his or her decision to commit suicide to the suspect.
* The victim did not seek the encouragement or assistance of the suspect personally or on his or her own initiative.
* The suspect was not wholly motivated by compassion; for example, the suspect was motivated by the prospect that he or she or a person closely connected to him or her stood to gain in some way from the death of the victim.
* The suspect pressured the victim to commit suicide.
* The suspect did not take reasonable steps to ensure that any other person had not pressured the victim to commit suicide.
* The suspect had a history of violence or abuse against the victim.
* The victim was physically able to undertake the act that constituted the assistance himself or herself.
* The suspect was unknown to the victim and encouraged or assisted the victim to commit or attempt to commit suicide by providing specific information via, for example, a website or publication.
* The suspect gave encouragement or assistance to more than one victim who were not known to each other.
* The suspect was paid by the victim or those close to the victim for his or her encouragement or assistance.
* The suspect was acting in his or her capacity as a medical doctor, nurse, other healthcare professional, a professional carer (whether for payment or not), or as a person in authority, such as a prison officer, and the victim was in his or her care.
* The suspect was aware that the victim intended to commit suicide in a public place where it was reasonable to think that members of the public may be present.
* The suspect was acting in his or her capacity as a person involved in the management or as an employee (whether for payment or not) of an organisation or group, a purpose of which is to provide a physical environment (whether for payment or not) in which to allow another to commit suicide.
The six public interest factors against prosecution are:
* The victim had reached a voluntary, clear, settled and informed decision to commit suicide.
* The suspect was wholly motivated by compassion.
* The actions of the suspect, although sufficient to come within the definition of the crime, were of only minor encouragement or assistance.
* The suspect had sought to dissuade the victim from taking the course of action which resulted in his or her suicide.
* The actions of the suspect may be characterised as reluctant encouragement or assistance in the face of a determined wish on the part of the victim to commit suicide.
* The suspect reported the victim's suicide to the police and fully assisted them in their enquiries into the circumstances of the suicide or the attempt and his or her part in providing encouragement or assistance.
Link to the prosecution guidelines in the UK: http://www.cps.gov.uk/news/press_releases/109_10/
Previous blog comments about the assisted suicide prosecution guidelines in the UK: http://alexschadenberg.blogspot.com/2010/02/assisted-suicide-law-to-be.html