Earlier this year we covered the law surrounding assisted suicide, and at that time we did state that more definite clarity was required for people who wanted their loved ones to accompany them on trips abroad. The Suicide Act 1961 already clearly states that if anyone aids, abets, counsels or procures someone else’s suicide, they could face a term of imprisonment of up to 14 years. Therefore we are all aware of how the law works with regards to this country; however, it was how this Act of Parliament would extend to cover people travelling to the Dignitas Clinic in Switzerland that everyone was keen to ascertain.
Following a long and arduous battle with every level of court in our land, Debbie Purdy has finally won her case to have this area of the law far more clearly defined. Quite why the Director of Public Prosecutions (Mr Keir Stamer QC) and other top legal professionals continually insisted on subjecting this woman to such an unnecessary battle will probably never be known, but thank goodness, the latest stage of this case has resulted in the House of Lords ordering Mr Stamer to release the details of his interpretation of this law.
Had it not been for this more humane ruling, Mrs Purdy would still be without this clarification and the MPs and top judges would still be insisting on denying UK citizens some basic information on exactly where the law applies.
There is no doubt that many people would feel sickened by the way in which this incredibly brave woman has been treated by the very people we look up to, who should know better. Mrs Purdy is suffering from multiple sclerosis, and obviously we can be sure that she would have much rather spent these last years enjoying the quality time that she feels she has with her husband and other loved ones.
At the end of the day and without any exceptions, every single citizen of this country has a fundamental right to know what the laws they are expected to abide by entail. Therefore, how on earth could this case ever have been permitted to go so far and involve such a fight from a woman who is being continually weakened by the disease she suffers from?
The primary excuse for such treatment is likely to be found in the fact that assisted suicide is viewed with utter contempt through many of the organisations which have a strong voice and contribute a vast amount of public pressure on the government and judiciary. No doubt Mr Stamer would have felt that his hands were completely tied and his mouth gagged, especially when you consider the vehement opposition that exists towards decriminalising this area of law.
Notwithstanding all of this though, Mrs Purdy has never actually approached the judiciary, cap in hand, to request a change in the law. Instead, she has only ever sought a basic explanation for an Act of Parliament that is approaching 50 years in age and showing definite signs of failing to stay up to date with modern society. Had she been looking for a radical amendment to the law, her treatment would have been more understandable.
Loved ones are not going to be subjected to criminal proceedings when they accompany people abroad who wish to end their lives – this is the very latest revelation that we are now able to report. At long last, Debbie Purdy can now relax and enjoy the rest of her time with her family. In the meantime, more accurate details on this area of law are due to follow very soon, and when the MPs return from their long summer breaks, we can all expect to hear this matter deliberated over for some time to come. We’ll all keep our fingers crossed that MPs actually try to represent the views and opinions of their own constituents for once and refrain from inflicting their outdated opinions where matters of potential legislation are concerned.