Law Lords of death rule for assisted suicide
She is ecstatic after a Law Lords’ ruling which paves the way for legally assisted suicide abroad, of which she says, apparently oblivious to the irony: 'This has given me my life back'.
Assisted suicide is a curious life to get back.
Giving judgment yesterday – their final one from the red benches of the House of Lords – Lord Hope, sitting with Lords Phillips, Brown and Neuberger and Baroness Hale, said it was no part of the Law Lords' function to decriminalise assisted suicide, which was up to Parliament. Their function was to say what the law is and, if uncertain, to clarify it. So this ruling has not changed the law on assisting suicide, which remains punishable by up to 14 years in jail. It relates specifically to ‘suicide tourism’, and now families who help terminally ill relatives to end their lives will be free from the risk of prosecution.
Is it not profoundly sad and disturbing that the final ruling of the Law Lords from the Chamber of the Upper House should be for death and destruction?
Rather like the legalisation of abortion, which was only ever intended to be performed in extremis, this will lead to all manner of unintended abuses. Miss Purdy's lawyers are already talking of the eventual legalisation of assistance for suicide in certain circumstances. They said a distinction will now be drawn between maliciously encouraging someone to kill themselves, which would continue to be prosecuted, and compassionately supporting someone's decision to die, which would not lead to legal action.
Can one not be compassionately malicious?
This is not just the thin end of a wedge. It is not even the tip of an iceberg. It is a legislative coup, driving a coach and horses through the Section 2(1) of the Suicide Act 1861 – a sovereign Act of Parliament – without reference to that Parliament. Effectively, it has been decreed by judicial authority that it is lawful for somebody to help a person to commit suicide abroad but not in the UK. This amounts to a change in primary legislation. And it is an absurd and unsustainable distinction in any case, for British nationals should not be encouraged to pursue legally abroad what is illegal here: why not encourage cannabis smokers to journey to Amsterdam? Why not encourage paedophiles to journey to Thailand? Those who pursue the latter are extradited and prosecuted on their return to the UK: we do not 'assist' their predatory sexual perversion. To pretend that by permitting assisted suicide in Switzerland the UK somehow remains legislatively morally superior is absurd.
But of even greater significance is that Miss Purdy also won on a second point – the Law Lords said she had the right to choose how she died, under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
The ECHR is now deemed to grant one the right to determine how and when one may die. The ECHR has become God.
Now people will have the ultimate power to choose how and when they end their life, and it is a human right.
And yet Cranmer cannot but think these Law Lords to be spiritually undiscerning and morally deficient. For what message does this send to the vulnerable, the disabled and the seriously ill? Perhaps they should all pack their bags and jet off to Geneva with their Dignitas vouchers courtesy of their caring, compassionate and supportive families.
The sad case of Miss Purdy sets a dangerous precedent as far as the state is concerned: if you have MS, it is better to just get it over with. You will no longer be a burden to your relations or to the state. The NHS could save billions by no longer keeping alive people who have all manner of ailments and diseases.
Why not just end all suffering, for surely it is an infringement of one’s human rights?