#( " ! $# #
Starmer was forced to clarify the assisted suicide guidelines by the House of Lords, acting on behalf of multiple sclerosis sufferer Debbie Purdy, who wants her husband to be able to help her end her life at a time of her choosing without facing potential prosecution.
She said the new guidelines, which take effect immediately, would help her end her life when that time comes. Still, Purdy said an entirely new law governing assisted suicide is needed to replace the existing law written nearly 50 years ago.
“He has been able to differentiate clearly between malicious intent and compassionate support,” she said of the chief prosecutor. “But I think we need a new law because interpretation and tweaking of the 1961 suicide act will never be enough.”
She said tribunals should be established to study individual cases before a person commits suicide so family members and close friends can know where they stand legally before they take any action to assist in the suicide.
This is the view of Terry Pratchett, a well-loved British author suffering from early onset Alzheimer’s disease.
“I would like to see death as a medical procedure — in very carefully chosen cases,” said Pratchett, 61, who believes he should be able to legally end his life before the ravages of the disease leaves him helpless.
Starmer stressed that he was not decriminalizing assisted suicide or modifying the law on mercy killings, which have been the focus of intense media attention with the claim last week by a BBC television personality that he had killed his partner, who was gravely ill with AIDS.
But he said prosecution would be less likely in cases where the suspect was acting out of compassion.
He said other factors would also make criminal charges less likely, including victims who had made a voluntary and informed decision to end their lives, suspects who reported the suicide to police and admitted their role, and cases where a suspect tried in vain to convince the victim not to choose suicide.
Other mitigating factors that might make prosecution less likely include instances where the suspect provided only minor help in the suicide or was reluctant to provide assistance but did so in the face of persistent demands.