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26 March 2012
First Commons debate on assisted suicide in 40 years'
MPs will tomorrow [Tuesday March 27th] take part in an historic debate on assisted suicide as they decide whether to back guidelines by the Director of Public Prosecution set out in the wake of the landmark Debby Purdy case.
A decision to back the guidelines would mean MPs accepting for the first time the circumstances in which an individual should not be prosecuted for assisting in a suicide in England and Wales.
The guidelines distinguish between malicious or professional assistance that will be prosecuted and instances of compassionate amateur assistance such as accompanying a loved one abroad to die where prosecution is unlikely. It will also be a clear demonstration that they are in step with public opinion, a YouGov poll in 2010 found that 82% of people believe that the DPP's approach to prosecution is 'sensible and humane'.
Dignity in Dying chief executive Sarah Wootton said:
“The motion MPs are debating welcomes the DPP's flexible approach to sentencing in cases of assisted suicide.
“Whatever their views on assisted dying and whether dying Britons should have the choice of an assisted death in the UK, I do not imagine MPs will be able to, in good conscience, vote against the motion and effectively say to those people watching the debate that they should be in prison for making one of the most heart-breaking decisions of their lives.”
The Backbench Business Committee Debate in the Chamber of the House of Commons was secured by Senior Conservative MP Richard Ottaway and will decide whether MPs agree with the Director of Public Prosecutions' (DPP) Policy on Assisted Suicide, which has been in place since February 2010.
Tomorrow's debate will be the first full assisted suicide debate on the floor of the Chamber since 1970 although there was a vote via a Ten Minute Rule Bill 15 years ago. It is open to the public, likely to begin between at 12.30am and may run all day.