Terminally ill should have right to die – new health minister

Published 08 September 2012
Terminally ill should have right to die – new health minister
Newly promoted health minister Anna Soubry says terminally ill people should be able to receive assistance in ending their lives in the UK.

She was speaking to the Times in her first interview since being made Under-Secretary of State for Health in David Cameron’s reshuffle last week.

Assisted suicide is a criminal offence in England and Wales, punishable by up to 14 years in prison.

Ms Soubry expressed her opposition to changing the law to allow doctors to end patients’ lives, but said people should have the right to die in their own homes.

“I think it’s ridiculous and appalling that people have to go abroad to end their life instead of being able to end their life at home.

“You can’t say to a doctor or a nurse, ‘Kill this person’ but … you have a right to kill yourself,” she said.

Guidelines issued by the Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer, in 2010 clarified that the motive of the person assisting the death would be taken into consideration when deciding whether to press criminal charges.

Ms Soubry said there was a need for greater “honesty” in relation to when people would be prosecuted for helping a relative to die.

“The rules that we have about who we don’t prosecute allow things to happen but there’s a good argument that we should be a bit more honest about it,” she said.

There have been several high profile right-to-die cases in recent years. The guidance issued by Starmer in 2010 came in response to MS sufferer Debbie Purdy’s legal challenge for clarification on the law on assisted suicide. She wanted to know whether her husband would face legal charges if he helped her to get to Switzerland to end her life.

Last month, Tony Nicklinson lost his case to have help in ending his life at a time of his choosing. Nicklinson, who suffered from locked-in syndrome, died a week after the court rejected his request.

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