Thursday, 25 February 2010

Nice one, Mr Starmer

I think the Director of Public Prosecutions has done as good a job as one could have expected considering the impossible task he'd been given by the Law Lords. He's taken out all reference to the disabled and terminally ill - which means that the likes of me won't have less legal protection than anyone else. He's taken out reference to families, because it was naïve to ignore the fact that most abuse of young and old happens within families. He's emphasised that the law has not been changed and the mitigating factors should not be regarded as implying immunity from prosecution.

The DPP's press release summed them up:
'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.'

Although the motive of compassion seems reasonable, it still seems to me rather subjective. It means more than feeling sorry for someone, or pitying, or worse not liking what you see. It means literally: 'suffering with'. I think that means sticking with someone who's suffering to the end. Compassion cannot mean killing.

Debbie Purdy was up-beat about the guidelines on the news today, but I suspect it was more rhetoric than real triumph. She was a bit ambiguous in the interview I saw. Although she said she and Omar will now be all right when/if she took herself to Zurich, she then adjusted 'will' to 'may', because actually the law hasn't changed and the DPP will still consider all cases. I think she tacitly acknowledges that by promising to carry on the campaign to get the law changed. The Euthanasia campaign will run and run, I'm sure. It's important that others stand and stand and stand against it. I was glad to hear that Gordon Brown had been brave enough to speak out in a clear and well informed opposition, and was very impressed by an article by Professor John Keown, author of 'Euthanasia, Ethics and Public Policy' (CUP) on why we shouldn't let it in by the back door ( ). Opinion polls and emotional (tear-jerking) stories - which go together - are no substitute for informed and humane discussion of the issues.

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