Monday, November 30, 2009

DPP circumvents Parliament with the ‘guidance’ on assisted suicide

Readers and Communicants will recall that Lord Falconer attempted to amend the Coroners and Justices Bill in the summer to allow for assisted suicide. This was thrown out by a convincing majority.

Undaunted by this, Ms Debbie Purdy decided to take her case to the UK Supreme Court. The court instructed the Director of Public Prosecutions to issue a policy statement, setting out his approach to the law. This was done and we have until December 16th to respond with our views.

The DPP has set out a number of 'less likely to prosecute' categories and the organisation Care Not Killing has responded, outlining some serious concerns.

CNK considers that this interim policy statement is not fit for purpose in its present form. There are serious defects both in its underlying principles and in several of the specific prosecution criteria proposed.

Though the statement disclaims any intention either to change the law or to offer immunity from prosecution for assisters of suicides, the approach it adopts to clarifying prosecution policy for this offence risks producing these outcomes.

In particular, it does not take as its starting point the guideline laid down in the current Code for Crown Prosecutors that ‘a prosecution will usually take place unless there are public interest factors tending against prosecution’ and it gives the appearance of a shift in the role of the CPS from one of enforcing the law other than in exceptional circumstances to one of arbitrating, in an even-handed manner, between the merits and demerits of prosecuting those who assist suicides. In particular, there are specific categories set out which are both discriminatory and dangerously unrealistic and as such pose serious dangers to public safety:

1) the victim is disabled or seriously/terminally ill - despite the fact that Parliament has repeatedly rejected legalising assisted suicide for terminally ill people and that it is a fundamental principle of the criminal law that its protection should be afforded equally to all, irrespective of their age, sex, race, religion – and state of health.

2) the victim has attempted suicide before - even though this often indicates mental illness and in prisons or hospitals such a history is grounds for extra vigilance.

3) the ‘assister’ is a spouse, partner, or close family member - even though elder abuse (physical, emotional and financial) often occurs within apparently ‘loving families’.

There is at least one case where a disturbed young woman (Kerrie Wooltorton), who had attempted suicide nine times before, drank antifreeze in September 2007. She phoned an ambulance and handed the doctors a note to say she did not want them to save her life. The doctors and nurses took this instruction to the letter and let her die. The Mental Capacity act 2005 gives legal force to suicide notes. Her bereaved father said he was ashamed to be British.

George Pitcher wrote in the Telegraph: 'Imagine that the police visit your home and tell you that your child has committed suicide. Now imagine they tell you that ambulance and hospital staff could and would have saved her life but that she handed them a letter asking them not to.'

It also implies that if a mother suffering from post natal depression took an overdose and left a note to the effect that she could not go on and she was unworthy, would that be grounds for the doctors at the hospital to forgo the use of the stomach pump or any emetic to make the poor woman sick? Or would there be a need to have a lawyer on hand to give a judgement? Lawyers, being cautious sort of coves would probably advise to let her die.

What can be done?

The DPP has issues a questionnaire for the public to give their views. Readers and Communicants can download the consultation document HERE.

This will download a Word document which can be completed and emailed to the Crown Prosecution Service. CNK points out that the questionnaire is quite long and complex and this sadly will probably deter many people from completing it in full – or even at all. But it is vital that as many concerned people as possible should complete the questionnaire and thereby make their views known.

If you feel you cannot complete the whole document, please at least try to complete the all-important Question 5 – which appears on pages 12 and 13 and lists various circumstances in which people might not be prosecuted for assisting a suicide. If you disagree with the proposition, it is essential that a number of these circumstances – in particular, those numbered 1, 4, 6, 8 and 11 – should be firmly answered with ‘No’.

The wider issue

We are told that Parliament is supreme and the judges only serve to interpret the law as set out by Parliament.

Here we have a situation where Parliament has given a view and the ‘Supreme Court’ (as we now have) has decided to instruct the DPP to ‘give guidance’. Apart from the sheer brass neck of the Judiciary outflanking Parliament, if such guidance is necessary with a tick-box of rules, why do we need judges at all?

36 Comments:

Blogger D. Singh said...

Your Grace,

‘We are told that Parliament is supreme and the judges only serve to interpret the law as set out by Parliament.’

Implicit within your statement is the suggestion that Parliament is losing its status. I honestly cannot recall the judiciary sub-contracting such a fundamental issue (life v. death) to the DPP before. That means there is a shift in view taking place amongst our legislative, executive and judicial elites as to how far the various power blocs (judiciary and the DPP, in this case) feel that they can go in by-passing Parliament.

We have two Left-liberal movements, acting like a pincer, against the authority of Parliament: the Human rights Act 1998 (Supreme Court in Strasbourg) and the European Union (Supreme Court in Luxembourg).

Our Supreme Court reports to both (the Human Rights Court in Strasbourg will never make a decision which goes against the principle of ever closer union; for if it did then a collision between both supreme courts is inevitable (the smart money being on the EU’s Supreme Court being triumphant)).


This people once had a parliament.

30 November 2009 at 12:13  
Blogger Demetrius said...

Your Grace may have noted the increase in the death rate of the aged over last winter, explained by the authorities as weather related. Probably, this is bunkum. What has happened is that decisions have now shifted at the margins, and in come cases, to allow early ending of treatment, or I suspect a more active intervention of one sort or another.

30 November 2009 at 12:36  
Blogger ultramontane grumpy old catholic said...

Your Grace

I am increasing convinced that the NHS is incrementally but steadily moving towards a culture of death.

For example if prenatal tests indicate that there is a chance that the baby will be born with a disability it is assumed that the parents will abort. There is now societal pressure exerted in this direction. I know this from personal experience and it matches the experience in the USA. In 2005, Margaret Bauer, writing in the Washington post related her experiences with her Down's syndrome child.

She writes "Many young women, upon meeting us, have asked whether I had 'the test.' I interpret the question as a get-home-free card. If I say no, they figure, that means I'm a victim of circumstance, and therefore not implicitly repudiating the decision they may make to abort if they think there are disabilities involved. If yes, then it means I'm a right-wing antiabortion nut whose choices aren't relevant to their lives.

Either way, they win."

Some liberals are now saying it is a duty of parents to terminate a pregnancy where the child is diagnosed as likely to be disabled. How long before it will be mandatory? And how long before mandatory termination will apply to the elderly, the terminally ill or those requiring expensive drugs to retain quality of life?

Be that as it may, the NHS stands by to serve the government as necessary.

"Hippocratic oath? What's that? Must look it up in the dictionary sometime. Now take bare your arm, dear. This won't hurt a bit"

30 November 2009 at 12:46  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your Grace
I too am concerned about the increase in the attitude of some who think they can externally measure the value of someone's life & thus determine whether they should live on not.
There have been cases reported in the news of some elderly patients being in effect left to die in hospitals who were apparently not necessarily dying (misapplication of "?Liverpool Pathway? scheme). In some cases relatives had to fight to get their loved ones home, where (if they succeeded in their request) their loved ones sometimes revived under loving, normal care.
Re suicide, anyone can be pushed to the point of feeling despair and/or potentially suicidal if they are mistreated enough for long enough, including those who previously had no or lesser mental health problems. Isolation/boredom, lack of food for long enough or torture can do that potentially to anyone. Prisoners, those in hospitals & institutions are particlarly vulnerable. Likewise if people are not treated with dignity & cannot stop it. Mental health patients & the elderly who are over-medicated & may have a boring mindless life thrust on them unnecessarily may feel despairing. I have read of cases where mental health patients have complained about unethical staff behaviour & then been falsely labelled as "agitated"( they may have been tactful or righteously angry - ironically mental health staff rarely become agitated, only righteously angry, even when abusive because they are in control of the patient & notes) or something else, & then overmedicated or punished in some other way, including isolation. The stigmatised and/or vulnerable are vulnerable to abuses, especially if they do not have family and/or friends who are willing & able to stick up for them, or where the state has too much power, including to being pushed towards in effect euthanasia. Though looking after others may be "hard work" & even sometimes too much, the one who is ill or disabled is never a burden in our Lord's eyes. However, their lives are regarded by many as of low value; they are not/no longer good profit-centres or successful in a worldly way in the eyes of some making decisions & setting agendas, who do not realise the inherent dignity, purpose & value in every life, even a sad one. They are deemed more "expendable" of course "for their own and others' good".
I do think that sometimes families whose loved ones are brain-dead or in some other rare circumstances(though there was a recent case of a man in a coma for 23 years who was fully alert) face genuine ethical dilemmas about whether or not to switch off life support.
However encouraging suicide and removing life from people who are not in such situations is playing God. Combine that with the government's decision to have secret inquests, & the picture becomes even more frightening and evil, with even for room for abuse, including calling dissidents schizophrenic, locking them up & then there being suicides.

30 November 2009 at 13:26  
Blogger James Harris said...

As an employee of Dignity in Dying, it is no surprise that I (for the most part) welcome the DPP’s interim guidelines. An ambiguous law was doing very little to protect against abuse - prior to clarification, nobody was prosecuted for assisting somebody to travel abroad to die. There are two alternatives. One is to prosecute everybody who assists somebody to die regardless of the circumstances, which I would argue is uncompassionate, out of touch with public opinion and dangerous (forcing people to travel alone and before they are ready to die). Or to clarify the law, outlining the factors both for and against prosecution. I think common sense has won the day, it does much to remove anxiety and distress from those in an already difficult position, and will do more to protect against abuse (when and if there is evidence of it).

On two specific points, the sad case of Kerrie Wooltorton is unrelated to both the DPP’s guidelines and the Mental Capacity Act 2005. All mentally competent adults have the right to refuse medical treatment (is anyone seriously suggesting they shouldn’t?). The question raised by this tragic case is about how we judge mental competence, not whether we should stop people having the right to refuse treatment.

Finally, as for the conspiracy theory that a coup organized by liberal judges has usurped Parliament, I recommend a quick read of the 1961 Suicide Act. The guidelines do not change the law - unlike most other laws I am aware of, the 1961 Suicide Act specifically gives the DPP the discretion over whether to bring a prosecution. The DPP bases such decisions on the evidence available and the public interest. The interim guidelines, as instructed by the Law Lords, simply clarify the public interest test by setting out the factors both for and against prosecution.

The question I ask is should everybody be prosecuted for assisting somebody to die regardless of the circumstances? If the answer is no, shouldn’t the law clarify the factors which are more or less likely to lead to a prosecution?

James Harris
Head of Campaigns and Communications
Dignity in Dying

30 November 2009 at 15:33  
Blogger D. Singh said...

Mr Harris,

Don’t be so bloody stupid man.

The interim policy statement is not fit for purpose. Its fundamental error is this:

It does not take as its starting point the guideline set forth in the current Code for Crown Prosecutors that ‘a prosecution will usually take place unless there are public interest factors tending against prosecution.’

If you start your journey on the wrong foot – you will end up in the wrong place.

30 November 2009 at 15:53  
Blogger ultramontane grumpy old catholic said...

Mr Harris

The law is adequate as it stands. That is what a judge is for, to temper justice with mercy.

There is case law in other areas where a judge having found the defendant technically guilty of taking someone's life has given him an absolute discharge (because of other circumstances).

If someone feels that it is right to terminate the life of their relative, let them test it in a court of law. If they don't feel that they are accountable to God, they are certainly accountable to society.

30 November 2009 at 16:08  
Blogger Lord Lavendon said...

I have to say, is there a charity or is it worth creating a charity called 'dignity in living'?

30 November 2009 at 16:23  
Blogger James Harris said...

D.Singh

“a prosecution will usually take place unless there are public interest factors tending against prosecution” – precisely and the DPP has set out what these factors are: in a nut shell, abuse equals prosecution, absence of abuse combined with compassionate motivation equals non-prosecution.

Grump Old Catholic

I disagree with you, but I appreciate your honesty.

Regards

James

30 November 2009 at 16:29  
Blogger D. Singh said...

Mr Harris,

A public interest factor listed as tending against prosecution is the circumstance in which ‘the victim had a terminal illness or a severe and incurable physical disability or a severe degenerative physical condition’.

I would like you to advise the DPP to eliminate that.

It is unacceptable that some members of the public should be singled out as being more eligible for assistance with suicide by reason of their clinical health. It is a fundamental principle of English law that it protects all irrespective of their health.

Only the fascist or the communist would encourage inequality before the law.


Which are you?

30 November 2009 at 17:05  
Blogger D. Singh said...

Mr Harris,

Parliament has twice in the last four years considered and rejected proposals to legalise assisted suicide for terminally ill people. For he DPP to suggest against that background that he will regard the presence in a victim of terminal illness as a factor against prosecution for assisted suicide could be regarded as perverse and, arguably, an infringement of Parliament’s authority - and yet you suggested there was none.

Are you lying or misleading us?

30 November 2009 at 17:11  
Blogger D. Singh said...

Mr Harris,

The clinical conditions within its scope are wide. It could apply to conditions such as heart disease, insulin-dependent diabetes, arthritis and stroke - even in those countries where assisted suicide has been legalised - it has not been widely applied as this.

The Left-liberals have nothing but death to offer as a solution.

Answer me.

30 November 2009 at 17:15  
Blogger D. Singh said...

WHO HAS DONE THIS?

Who funding his organisation - dontcha know - they call it a charity. Love?

Is that what it is?

30 November 2009 at 17:29  
Blogger D. Singh said...

From the movie Logan's Run (1976):


Logan: NO! Don't go in there! You don't have to die! No one has to die at 30! You could live! LIVE! Live, and grow old! I've seen it! She's seen it!
[Shows the crystal on his palm]
Logan: Well, look! LOOK! LOOK, IT'S CLEAR!
[Crowd laughs]
P.A. System: Lastday, Capricorn 29's. Year of the City: 2274. Carousel begins.
Jessica: No! Don't! Don't go! Listen to him! He's telling the truth!
[More laughter]
Jessica: We've been outside! There's another world outside! We've seen it!
[Sandmen grab them]
Logan: Life clocks are a lie! Carousel is a lie! THERE IS NO RENEWAL!

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Jessica 6: A friend of mine went on carousel. Now he's gone.
Logan 5: Yes, well, I'm sure he was renewed.
Jessica 6: He was killed.

30 November 2009 at 17:34  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mr Singh

Calm your anger, it only leads to EVIL. Mr Harris has no answer, no answer that he would share with you. He presumes to think, maybe even believe, that The Father needs the help of a creature. AB Cranmer has pre-eminence in these matters but I say, on the authority of received wisdom, that The Father needs no help from the Charity, the DPP, or the Court. And those who presume to help him in the termination of human life will have to answer at His Bar.

30 November 2009 at 17:43  
Anonymous Socialist Labour said...

Has D. Singh gone mad? I am unable to see the problem with Mr Harris argument, but even if I did , I wouldn't try the tack you are taking.

30 November 2009 at 17:50  
Anonymous Williams said...

D.Singh needs to calm down and read the post of Mr Harris and must also learn that his views are not always the right ones.

30 November 2009 at 17:51  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

where does D.Singh get all his quotes from ? He must have a treasure trove of sayings stored up somewhere.....

30 November 2009 at 17:55  
Blogger ZZMike said...

ultramontane: "How long before it will be mandatory?"

As a guideline, how long did it take in Germany, ca. 1930s?

We also see the effects in health care rationing and in "quality of life" tests. I assume that the NHS "Do Not Resuscitate" order has not been abolished.

Here in the US, we're starting down that dismal path, under the direction of our Glorious Leader and his #2 (the Wicked Witch of the West, Ms Pelosi [from San Francisco, on the West Coast]).

30 November 2009 at 18:23  
Blogger ultramontane grumpy old catholic said...

‘Kerrie Woolterton ... a tragic case ... how we judge mental competency’.

That is a cop out James, with respect. It's in the category of 'lessons will be learned' that seems to be the mantra most chanted today by public bodies when they want to excuse their actions and bury the complaint – and proceed along their own sweet way.

Have you ever heard of post natal psychosis? Far far worse than post natal depression. A mother will think she is evil and not fit to live. She might write a note and take an overdose. When she is admitted to A&E the medical staff are not to know her background. Under this brave new world she would be let die.

Yet a full recovery can be made with the right treatment.

Maybe we punters should take out the requisite insurance so that when a loved one is rushed to hospital, our lawyer can argue the case for treatment. Though time would be of the essence.

You may claim that this is not the main point, but it is all part of the ratcheting that has been going on for some time in this country.

‘All mentally competent adults have the right to refuse medical treatment (is anyone seriously suggesting they shouldn’t?)’. Up to a point. The law allows people to be ‘self endangeringly eccentric’ but that is a far cry from taking an overdose in depression and a writing a suicide note in depression. The fact that the hospital was not prosecuted and the Coroner supported the hospital just shows how far we have gone along the road to perdition.

The DPP guidelines if implemented will be a further ratchet.

30 November 2009 at 18:51  
Anonymous not a mouse said...

Demetrius - Oh, yes. I've called it genocide for a long time.

Slightly OT, I know - but this is a very legal discussion, and also about the death of the most wonderful nation ever: Someone over on Hannan suggests that as of midnight we lose the right to Trial by Jury. Further, they say that we are now guilty until we prove ourselves innocent, in effect to some almighty 'human.'

Is this true? If so, why isn't someone telling us more loudly?

I really do wonder why people always succeed in resuscitating me (in surgery) when I'd rather die!! I assume God must want it that way, but wish I knew why!!!

30 November 2009 at 18:51  
Blogger ultramontane grumpy old catholic said...

ZZMike

Interesting that you mention Germany and 1933. I received a few months ago a reproduction of a news item from the New York Times of November 1933 reporting that the German Ministry of Justice in a detailed memorandum was explaining the Nazi aims regarding the German penal code and announcing its intention to authorize physicians to end the sufferings of incurable patients.

The news article went on to say:

"In medical circles the question was raised as to just when a man is incurable and when his life should be ended. According to the present plans of the Ministry of Justice, incurability would be determined not only by the attending physician, but also by two official doctors who would carefully trace the history of the case and personally examine the patient.

"In insisting that euthanasia shall be permissible only if the accredited attending physician is backed by two experts who so advise, the Ministry believes a guarantee is given that no life still valuable to the State will be wantonly destroyed. The legal question of who may request the application of euthanasia has not been definitively solved. The Ministry merely has proposed that either the patient himself shall 'expressly and earnestly' ask it, or 'in case the patient no longer is able to express his desire, his nearer relatives, acting from motives that do not contravene morals so request.'"

Sounds familiar, though it sounds as if the Nazis set out to be more careful(!)...

30 November 2009 at 19:06  
Anonymous Liberal Social Democrat said...

Can't see the issue here, if people want to kill themselves and get some help whilst doing so, well what's wrong with that ?

30 November 2009 at 20:00  
Blogger Hugh Oxford said...

You know, I've fought these battles. The horror of abortion, of euthanasia. I've stood on the street corners at the vigils. I've joined the organisations. I've written to my MP, time and time again.

And I've come to the conclusion that this is all very well and good, but it isn't the answer. We're too far gone down the deathly path of secularism.

We might claw a little humanity back here and there. We might win the occasional battle. But unless society knows why these things are wrong, it's a waste of energy. That's a knowledge that can only come from the intimate union of Man and God through Christ, it can only come from people turning back to God.

There's so much pain, so much brokenness, so much anomie, so much suffering, so much hopelessness, such a void between so many people and God today that we can fight the battles, we can fight the grains of attrition that are wearing us down. But unless people have faith they cannot have hope, and as long as they lack hope, we will continue to see the law change to reflect that hopelessness and nihilism.

So we must pray, pray, pray, pray like there's no tomorrow, and work, work, work to show people the love of God, show them life, show them love, show them the beauty and splendour. We must be constant reminders of God's love, we must be beacons in the darkness. Noble as these efforts are, they cannot substitute for a return to Christ.

30 November 2009 at 20:44  
Blogger PaulineG said...

James Harris (15.33)

“An ambiguous law was doing very little to protect against abuse - prior to clarification, nobody was prosecuted for assisting somebody to travel abroad to die.”

Ambiguous?
Under the Suicide Act 1961, aiding, abetting, counselling or procuring a suicide is prohibited and carries a penalty of up to 14 years in prison. What’s ambiguous about that, Mr Harris?

Doing very little to protect against abuse?
The law protects against abuse by acting as a deterrent. The total number of deaths in England and Wales last year was over 54000. I understand that starting in 2002 and up to June this year a total 115 Britons have gone to Dignitas to die. That’s less than 17 a year. Tragic as each of these cases is I can’t quite see that failure to prosecute in this small number of cases (many of which will have failed the initial ‘evidential test’) demonstrates that “the law is doing very little to protect against abuse”.

“There are two alternatives. One is to prosecute everybody who assists somebody to die regardless of the circumstances, which I would argue is uncompassionate, out of touch with public opinion and dangerous (forcing people to travel alone and before they are ready to die). Or to clarify the law, outlining the factors both for and against prosecution.”

No, Mr Harris, these are not the only alternatives. The other alternative is, or was until this perverse and anti-democratic judgment, to continue to apply the law as previously - permitting the DPP to waive prosecution if, in his judgment, it was not in the public interest but without providing a blueprint to potential criminals as to how to avoid prosecution.

“I think common sense has won the day, it does much to remove anxiety and distress from those in an already difficult position, and will do more to protect against abuse (when and if there is evidence of it).”

The guidelines suggest that those who aid, abet, counsel or procure the suicide of a person with a physical disability or illness or with suicidal tendencies (i.e. those who call most strongly on our protection because most vulnerable to neglect, coercion or manipulation) are LESS likely to be prosecuted.
They also suggest that family members, who are the most prone to abuse and the most likely to ‘benefit’ from the victim’s early demise, are LESS likely to be prosecuted.

How exactly, Mr Harris, do such guidelines better protect against abuse than the previous arrangement?

“The DPP bases such decisions on the evidence available and the public interest. The interim guidelines, as instructed by the Law Lords, simply clarify the public interest test by setting out the factors both for and against prosecution.”

The Law Lords ruling is perverse since, as Lord Carlile observes (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/politics/lawandorder/6562860/New-guidelines-on-assisted-suicide-could-put-vulnerable-people-at-risk-says-Lord-Carlile.html), “Uncertainty, not about the law, but about the outcome of breaking it is a major factor in deterring crime.” To publish guidelines about the circumstances in which one can break a law without being punished is to undermine the law.
But the DPP’s guidelines go far beyond what was required by the Law Lords and, for the sake of a vocal and determined few, recklessly and wantonly place in peril the many.

The question I ask is should everybody be prosecuted for assisting somebody to die regardless of the circumstances? If the answer is no, shouldn’t the law clarify the factors which are more or less likely to lead to a prosecution?

The answer to your first question is clearly “no”.
The answer to your second question is clearly “no”.

30 November 2009 at 21:02  
Anonymous Bag Lady said...

D.Singh, Logan's run was a good film, but I don't see the connection with this thread? Perhaps you could explain, to a less intelligent person?

30 November 2009 at 21:50  
Blogger peter_dtm said...

Filled in & sent off; though I had to print the thing out to PDF file before I could actually read it - as an example of how NOT to prepare a word doc this gets 10/10

Hint : If when you open the document you cant get to page 1 & can only get to Q1 then print the document out..

I added the following comments as well

Q6 (Mitigation)
Failure of the National Health Service to provide adequate palliative care; but in which case the relevant NHS body should be investigated for possible Manslaughter charges

Q9 (Other comments)
Presumption should always be to prosecute; the normal test of a probable successful prosecution should also be waived; the intent is to ensure everyone understands that involvement in assisted suicide will always result in prosecution. It is the failure of the CPS and its successors to prosecute assisted suicide cases that has lead to the confusion. Leaver the repeal and bending of the law to Parliament; and the interpretation of the law to the Judiciary.

30 November 2009 at 22:19  
Anonymous Bob (a different one) said...

it's interesting that you use a ten commandments reference

not that it has any relevance to secular law, but let's see how many other commandments are law

'You shall not make for yourself an idol' - bad Simon Cowell

'You shall not make wrongful use of the name of your God' - hmmm..blasphemy laws?

'Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy' - tesco is definitely not open on a sunday

'Honour your father and mother' - no

'You shall not commit adultery' - at least that one is still bad...but not illegal

'You shall not steal' - we got one!

'You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor' - perjury I guess

'You shall not covet your neighbor's wife' - hmm..

'You shall not covet anything that belongs to your neighbor' - but he has a ferrari...

So that's three out of ten - highly relevant

(sorry, yank spellings copied off wikipedia)

30 November 2009 at 23:05  
Blogger D. Singh said...

Bag Lady,

It is a movie that 'foretells' about a time like ours:

'In the twenty-third century, life is perfect, without disease or childbirth. A great Computer runs everything. Beautiful white people are gestated in breeding machines, raised by other machines; few seem to have a job. Sex and drugs and pleasure are the order of the days as The City cares for its inhabitants. No one even grows old anymore! When you reach the age of thirty, you go on Carousel, a sort of dance-circus ritual in which you float and fly and…explode! Of course, you assume that most folks "Renew", a reincarnation doctrine you have known all your life. Once in a while, some misfit fools, who want to live longer, try to elude Carousel. These are the Runners, and they are swiftly dispatched by an elite force, the Sandmen.'

1 December 2009 at 07:57  
Anonymous Allen said...

Let's waiting and looking.

1 December 2009 at 08:47  
Anonymous TheGlovner said...

I see Mr Singh is up to his usual debating techniques.

"I do not agree with you/your opinion differs from mine, therefore you are either a fascist or a communist"

1 December 2009 at 09:56  
Blogger PaulineG said...

Amendment to my post yesterday 21.02.

I quoted 54,000 for the deaths in England and Wales last year. I was reading off the wrong stats and I do apologise.

In fact, there were 509,090 deaths registered in England and Wales in 2008 (see http://www.statistics.gov.uk/cci/nugget.asp?id=952).

This revision, however, serves only to underline the point. The figure of 115 British deaths at Dignitas comes from here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2009/jun/21/dignitas-suicide-clinic-britons

17 (per year) in over half a million is not a big number and it is utterly ludicrous to seek to infer from this that the present law is "doing very little to protect against abuse".

1 December 2009 at 10:05  
Blogger PaulineG said...

Your Grace,

Having trawled the same waters as your good self seeking information on these guidelines I have sought to persuade others to act listing the same Question 5 factors.

However, I have since been persuaded that it would also be helpful to offer a firm "no" to Question 1, factor 6.

The point here is to prevent any possibility of establishing a link, however apparently benign, between physical condition and prosecution policy.

1 December 2009 at 10:27  
Blogger James Harris said...

PaulineG

In short you are arguing that people under certain circumstances, and at the discretion of the DPP, shouldn’t be prosecuted. But, that people are not entitled to know what those circumstances are. If anything is undemocratic, it’s your argument. It also illogical - increasing numbers of Britons are travelling abroad to die, with no prosecutions being sought for those that accompany them. At what point does non-prosecution become effective decriminalisation?

The guidelines distinguish between compassionate assistance to die, and malicious or irresponsible encouragement of suicide. They better protect against abuse, because they outline when a prosecution will be brought. As such, we can expect more prosecutions in the future than non-existent prosecutions at present.

Finally, I believe your argument is uncompassionate. You argue that we shouldn’t worry about this because only 100 odd people have died. I think these people’s lives and deaths are worth worrying about. As are the untold numbers committing suicide behind closed doors at home:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/3536238/Why-Michael-Grosvenor-Myer-left-his-wife-to-die-alone.html

Anyway, let’s agree to disagree.

Regards

James

1 December 2009 at 10:49  
Blogger PaulineG said...

We can certainly agree to disagree, Mr Harris, but that does not mean I will leave unchallenged your further attempt to support the unsupportable and put at jeopardy the lives of many for the sake of a few.

You say:
“You are arguing that people under certain circumstances, and at the discretion of the DPP, shouldn’t be prosecuted. But, that people are not entitled to know what those circumstances are. If anything is undemocratic, it’s your argument.”

If you see this as undemocratic, then you must also agree that such guidelines should also be offered for all types of crime: murder, theft, rape, fraud, grievous bodily harm, drug abuse, dangerous driving etc etc. Do you so agree and, if not, why not?
In caricaturing this as undemocratic you fail to address Lord Carlile’s point, quoted earlier.

You say:
“Increasing numbers of Britons are travelling abroad to die, with no prosecutions being sought for those that accompany them. At what point does non-prosecution become effective decriminalisation?”

That is a very moot point and I would certainly urge those who respond to the consultation to urge the DPP to balance the call to compassion against the need to enforce the law to avoid it being brought into disrepute. However, I think we could perhaps agree, at least, that there may well be cases where it would be cruel to prosecute – such as, for example, where it is clear on the evidence that the suspect is a vulnerable character who was emotionally bullied into assisting by a dominant partner. It is my understanding that, in fact, in very few of these 115 cases was the initial evidence test passed. That being the case, the number of decisions not to prosecute on public interest grounds may well be quite small.

You say:
“The guidelines distinguish between compassionate assistance to die, and malicious or irresponsible encouragement of suicide. They better protect against abuse, because they outline when a prosecution will be brought. As such, we can expect more prosecutions in the future than non-existent prosecutions at present.”

For the reasons already offered, and which you have not countered, I disagree that the guidelines offer better protection.
I don’t believe you are correct in suggesting there are no prosecutions for assisted suicide. But perhaps you meant none from the Dignitas cases. I think we need to remember that these guidelines will apply to all cases of assisted suicide, not just the Dignitas cases.
We may well expect more prosecutions in the future but, if so, this will be because assisted suicide becomes more common as a result of the negative impact on societal attitudes of the guidelines and so more people will overstep the mark.

You say;
“Finally, I believe your argument is uncompassionate. You argue that we shouldn’t worry about this because only 100 odd people have died. I think these people’s lives and deaths are worth worrying about. As are the untold numbers committing suicide behind closed doors at home”

You twist my words, Mr Harris. I actually said that each case was tragic – and I mean it. I absolutely agree that these people’s lives and deaths are worth worrying about as well as those who commit suicide at home. But the point which, again, was made earlier and which you seem unwilling to address is that these guidelines would, on balance, make matters far worse. If society is not to wholly abandon its duty to protect us all without discrimination then the demands of the determined few must not be permitted to undermine the safety of the many and these guidelines must not stand.

Your linked story tugs at the heartstrings, as no doubt it is meant to do, but not for the reasons you might anticipate. It plays to a narrow and materialist view of human dignity based solely on physical and mental faculties. It denies the reality both of our universal and constant interdependency and vulnerability and of our intrinsic dignity by virtue of our human nature and regardless of stage or condition.

1 December 2009 at 12:23  
Blogger James Harris said...

PaulineG

I.....must....have....the....last....word. Only joking, I promise to let sleeping dogs lie whatever your inevitable response is.

On the specific point about prosecuting policies, of the crimes you list, both rape and bad driving already have prosecuting policies. I think it is a generally accepted principle that clarity is a good thing. Some crimes, like murder, are always likely to result in a prosecution as long as there is evidence to bring a case. But, for crimes where prosecutions are not always brought it is helpful to set out the determining factors.

On a more general point, your argument is confused. You argue for discretion on the one hand, but then say people should be prosecuted for the good of society. It appears to me that you have a very narrow interpretation of when discretion should be applied.

I believe that when the motivating factor is compassion, and in the absence of any evidence of abuse, somebody should not be prosecuted for helping a terminally ill, mentally competent adult to die at their request.

You seem to disagree, but don’t say so clearly.

As for your last point on human dignity, you are entitled to your view, which I and many others do not share.

James

1 December 2009 at 15:22  

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