Labour could end the ban on assisted dying
Labour could end the ban on assisted dying as Keir Starmer believes the law should be changed
- Assisted suicide is banned in England, Wales and Northern Ireland
Sir Keir Starmer believes the law on assisted dying should be changed, opening the door for Labour to end the ban if it is voted in.
He has previously said that, if safeguards are in place, people who want to end their lives could be helped by someone ‘acting out of compassion’. It is understood that his view is unchanged.
While Labour is not planning to set aside legislative time to change the law if it wins the next election, Sir Keir’s personal views suggest he could allow a free vote on the issue.
Assisted suicide is banned in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, with a maximum prison sentence of 14 years. In Scotland, it is not a specific criminal offence, but assisting the death of someone can leave a person open to a murder charge.
A bid to change the law was brought before Parliament in 2015 when Sir Keir described the ban as an ‘injustice’ and voted in favour of the Bill, which failed.
Sir Keir Starmer has previously said that, if safeguards are in place, people who want to end their lives could be helped by someone ‘acting out of compassion’
Politicians including Michael Gove have said it was time for another parliamentary debate
He told the Commons: ‘I understand those who say that we should revert to a position where nobody should be given any assistance at all, but we have arrived at a position where compassionate, amateur assistance from nearest and dearest is accepted but professional medical assistance is not, unless someone has the means and physical assistance to get to Dignitas.’
Sir Keir, who issued the current guidance on assisted dying when he was Director of Public Prosecutions, has also stated the law ‘needs to be changed’. But he has stressed the importance of safeguards to protect vulnerable people, while letting those who ‘wish to die be assisted by someone acting out of compassion’.
Dame Esther Rantzen, who has lung cancer, said this week she had joined the Dignitas assisted-dying clinic in Switzerland.
Since then, politicians including ministers Michael Gove and Mel Stride have said it was time for another parliamentary debate. The Commons health and social care committee is due to publish a report into assisted dying and assisted suicide.
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