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Recent Developments in the Reform of English Law on Assisted Suicide

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Assisted suicide remains a deeply contested issue in the UK. Recently three Assisted Dying for the Terminally Ill Bills were introduced in a three year period, all of which failed. Despite the provision of clear and precise safeguards, at each reading the House of Lords fixed largely on the traditional slippery slope and sanctity of life positions; a disproportionate reliance on theological determinism in particular prevented informed rational debate. People are living longer often with chronic, incurable diseases and palliative care is frequently of poor quality or even unavailable in the UK and it is unacceptable that individuals 'suffering unbearably' in their final days have no available domestic alternative. Yet the courts have consistently declined to prosecute in cases where friends and relatives have accompanied terminally ill persons abroad to die, against the provisions of the 1961 Suicide Act s2(1). This article critically assesses recent developments in English law on assisted dying and considers the implications for a more inclusive and reasoned debate in the future.

Affiliations: 1: Senior Lecturer, School of Law, De Montfort University, Leicester, UK


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