FACTBOX - Guidelines on prosecuting assisted suicides

Wed Sep 23, 2009 2:00pm BST

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(Reuters) - Guidelines on whether to prosecute people who help others commit suicide were published for the first time in Britain on Wednesday.

The guidelines do not change the law on assisted suicide. It remains unlawful and carries a penalty of up to 14 years in jail, but they give an indication as to whether a prosecution is likely to occur.

In all cases of suspected assisted suicide, the police will investigate and consult with prosecutors. The final decision on whether to prosecute will be taken by a small senior team of Crown Prosecution officials with the specific involvement of the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Among factors weighing against a prosecution are:

* The victim expressed a clear wish to commit suicide

* The victim asked for assistance in killing themselves

* The victim had a terminal illness or a severe and incurable physical disability; or a severe degenerative physical condition

* Those assisting were wholly motivated by compassion

* The victim was physically unable to undertake the act that constituted assistance

* The act of assistance or influence was judged to be relatively minor

Among factors weighing in favour of prosecution:

* The suicide victim was under 18 years old

* The victim's capacity to make an informed decision on suicide was affected by illness or learning difficulties

* The victim did not have a terminal illness, nor a severe and incurable physical disability nor a severe degenerative physical condition

* The victim had not unequivocally indicated a wish to kill themselves

* The victim had not personally asked for assistance

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