Government will not be reviewing assisted suicide law

24 April 2020

The Lord Chancellor Robert Buckland QC has told the Parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights that the government has no plans to review the law on assisted suicide.

Despite calls from activists to remove current protections against assisted suicide, the Lord Chancellor stated that there were currently no “plans to initiate a review of the law in this area or to publish a call for evidence.”

Risk to precious human life

The answer was given after a question was raised by Fiona Bruce MP during a session on the Government’s response to the coronavirus crisis and the implications for human rights. Before asking whether there were plans to change the law, she noted that, “we have all become more aware during this crisis of how precious every human life is.”

In his response, Mr Buckland said he personally holds grave doubts about the efficacy of a law that would prevent the sort of unintended consequences and abuses that none of us would want to see happen.”

He stated that a change in the law on assisted suicide was not government policy, but rather a matter for Parliament to decide.

Change rejected

Parliament last debated changing laws on assisted suicide in 2015 when MPs voted against the proposals by 330 to 118. Parliament has repeatedly rejected attempts by assisted suicide activists to change the law on assisted dying, most recently rejecting a call from lobbyists earlier this year. The House of Lords has rejected assisted suicide on numerous occasions, most notably in 2006 with the Falconer Bill, however also in 2013 and again in 2014.

Similarly, the courts have also historically refused to rule on any changes to the law, leaving the matter for Parliament. In November, the High Court rejected a judicial review of the current law on assisted suicide, ruling that it was “not an appropriate forum for the discussion of the sanctity of life.”

In 2018, the Court of Appeal ruled that Parliament was a better forum than the courts for deciding whether or not to legalise assisted suicide.

Currently, helping someone to kill themselves is criminal offence that carries a maximum sentence of 14 years. Similarly, euthanasia is also considered murder under UK law.

A call to care

Andrea Williams, chief executive of Christian Concern, commented: “We welcome the statement from the Lord Chancellor. Despite the efforts of assisted suicide activists, the government is upholding the law and maintaining its position to protect vulnerable lives.

“In a world of vulnerability, it is more important than ever that people feel well cared for and looked after. Any change to the law on assisted suicide would put many vulnerable people at risk and put pressure on those suffering long-term and terminal illnesses to end their lives prematurely.

“During the current coronavirus crisis, we are coming face to face with the reality of death. The government must realise that all life is precious. It has demonstrated that it will not cave to pressure from assisted suicide activists, but neither should it cave to pressure from abortion industry promoters. Many more precious lives will be lost if the introduction of DIY abortions goes unchallenged. This is a call to care for all those lives at risk.”

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