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Dismay at Purdy ruling

05 August 2009

by Ed Beavan

CHRISTIAN groups reacted with dismay after the Law Lords ruled last week that the law relating to assisted suicide should be clarified.

After a case brought by Debbie Purdy, who suffers from multiple sclerosis, the five Law Lords ruled un­animously that the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Keir Starmer, should make clear the grounds on which those who help others to end their lives will be prosecuted.

Mr Starmer announced on Mon­day that any new guidelines would apply both to assisted suicide in the UK, and to those who travel abroad to Switzerland to die.

Christian Concern for Our Nation described the judgment as repres­enting “a further departure from the biblical worldview which regards all human beings as made in God’s image, and for that reason worthy of protection.

“It is the state’s duty to protect God’s creation, and not to facilitate its destruction, which is the effect of this judgment.”

Paul Tully, general secretary of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC), warned of implications of the Law Lords’ ruling.

“Most people with long-term disabilities, degenerative diseases, or terminal illnesses do not seek to commit suicide, yet their lives could be undermined by this judgment. They may feel under pressure to kill themselves because they fear they are a burden on others.”

SPUC says it will be making a rep­resentation to the DPP on the issue.

The Care Not Killing alliance, which promotes palliative care, and which includes the Church of Eng­land and Christian Medical Fellow­ship among its members, said it would welcome more clarity in the administration of the law on the issue.

But it emphasised that it was “Parliament’s responsibility to make the law”, and pointed to the fact that the House of Lords had recently rejected Lord Falconer’s amendment to the Coroners and Justice Bill.

It said this showed that there were “serious public safety implications in­volved in creating loopholes in the law to meet the wishes of a deter­mined and strong-minded maj­or­ity”.

Dignity in Dying’s chief executive, Sarah Wootton, also welcomed the ruling, which she said could help clarify the “current legal muddle. A law which is not understood, en­forced, or supported by the major­ity of the public is not fit for purpose.”

On Wednesday, a Conservative MP, Nadine Dorries, said she planned to introduce a Private Member’s Bill in the autumn to debate the issue, and to stop “creeping euthanasia by the back door”.

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