04 December 2015, The Tablet

High Court allows DPP change in assisted suicide law that makes prosecuting healthcare professionals unlikely

Campaigners said that they will appeal a High Court ruling today that dismissed their challenge to a loosening of the law in regards to prosecuting cases of assisted suicide.

Disability campaigners Merv and Nikki Kenward brought the case after Director of Public Prosecutions, Alison Saunders, amended the wording in the prosecution of assisted suicide last year that they feel makes it less likely that healthcare professionals will be prosecuted for assisting suicide.

The complainants said that the change in wording leaves the disabled, elderly and terminally ill vulnerable to decision made by healthcare professionals.

Mrs Kenward, who was left paralysed by Guillain-Barre Syndrome in 1990, said: "This ruling is bizarre. The DPP simply asserted that, despite standing for five years, the published prosecution policy didn't actually express what had been intended. The court has accepted this blatant revisionism, without any real challenge or justification.

“This area of law is a matter of life and death. People need to be able to trust that doctors will always protect life, not help to take it. This change undermines that trust.

Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre, said: "It is entirely wrong for the effect of law to be altered without the express approval of Parliament."

Assisting suicide is a criminal offence under the Suicide Act 1961 and carries a penalty of up to 14 years imprisonment.

In September, MPs overwhelmingly rejected a Bill to make assisted suicide legal.



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