The Current Position of English Law on Assisted Suicide

Assisted suicide, commonly known as Euthanasia, is the act of helping a terminally ill patient to end their life. This is usually done by relatives or friends, but occasionally a doctor or carer will be the assistant. It is however rare to find a doctor who will participate in such an act because of the severe consequences against assisted suicide. In the case of a doctor they will lose their license and possibly serve a prison sentence that can either be of manslaughter and in extreme judgements murder, along with getting a bad reputation from fellow doctors and the public.

British law currently stands against the operation of euthanasia forcing heavy sentences on the people who commit the crime. This forces the relatives of the patient to have to face a difficult choice. They can either choose to watch a cared for member of their family suffer an agonising life and death or suffer themselves.

The law as it is has forced some carers to take the person wishing to end their life but are physically unable to, to Switzerland where euthanasia is legal in Dignitas. Even in such cases when the relative/carer returns to Britain they can still face criminal charges.

Euthanasia has caused controversy and some public outrage as there are two opposing sides to the argument. One side, usually of a religious set, believe that death should be natural, as God intended. The other side argue that once a person’s dignity is lost and that their death is just an extended period of pain they should be allowed the choice to end their life.

The British Humanist Association takes the former argument and is currently creating a campaign to legalise Euthanasia and bring it into public light.  They believe that we treat our animals more humanely than ourselves.  As we are able to put an animal to sleep if it is in extreme pain but seem to reserve that right for human beings who suffer the same.

Currently, the law stands at a sentence of up to fourteen years imprisonment if you are found guilty of committing assisted suicide. However, the probability of being found guilty depends on how ill the patient was before the act was committed and the last time the patient saw their doctors. Many of the patients ask their family and friends to end their lives before they become too ill to cope but it is clearly a difficult decision to make and most jurors will take this into consideration when they decide your verdict.