MPs have backed the Director of Public Prosecutions over his guidance on assisted suicide but rejected proposals to change the law.
The motion put forward by Conservative Richard Ottaway called welcomed the 2010 guidance and called for a government consultation on whether to put it on a statutory basis.
After a five-hour debate in which MPs from both sides made impassioned appeals, MPs gave their backing to the DPP’s guidance but refused to support any moves to relax the law on assisted suicide.
Mr Ottaway argued that courts should not “have the last word” on assisted suicide, but rather Parliament, as representatives of the public.
He said that the law at present does not distinguish between a malicious person encouraging a suicidal person and “the loving spouse who lovingly fulfils a partner’s request”.
The DPP’s guidance – which identified motive and public interest as the main factors in deciding whether to prosecute someone who helped another to die – was “realistic and compassionate”, he said.
Fiona Bruce MP’s amendment calling for better palliative care was supported by more than a hundred MPs.
“We are absolutely delighted that the House has sent such a clear message that improving specialist palliative and hospice care is a priority and that assisted suicide is not the route we wish to take as a society,” she said.
Labour’s Frank Field said the debate was really about euthanasia.
“Somehow we think this country is populated by all these husbands who love their wives and wives who love their husbands ... all gathering around doing the right thing.
"I also see a very nasty side sometimes about life and I know perfectly well that in those circumstances those individuals would have no hesitation in trying to persuade people [what] the decent thing to do is - end their lives."
Therese Coffey MP added: “It was a mature debate but certainly clear that there was no appetite of the majority of the House to change the law as it stands today.”
MPs reject relaxation of assisted suicide laws
Published 28 March 2012