I appreciate concerns on this very sensitive issue. Coping with terminal illness is distressing and difficult both for the patient and their families. These cases are truly moving and evoke the highest degree of compassion and emotion. I noted passionate comments from both sides of the argument of this issue of conscience.
Assisted dying was debated previously in Parliament, the ruling in California has no bearing on the UK.
I can confirm that I did vote against the Bill to legalise Assisted Suicide.
Having carried out extensive research and considered the many messages on the subject that I had received, it was clear to me that this Bill contained a number of flaws including; excessive pressures on vulnerable patients, doctors and nurses, a strong potential for legal challenges and action of individual cases and noted that institutions such as the British Medical Association were against the Bill whilst supportive of the current framework.
Assisting or encouraging suicide is a criminal offence under Section 2 of the Suicide Act 1961 for which the maximum penalty is 14 years' imprisonment. I am aware that the Director of Public Prosecutions has published guidelines primarily concerned with advising the Crown Prosecution Service prosecutors about the factors which they need to consider when deciding whether it is in the public interest to prosecute a person for assisting or encouraging another to commit suicide.
The House of Commons has discussed the DPP's guidelines and these were unanimously commended as being a compassionate and measured way of dealing with one of the most emotionally-charged crimes in the statute book. However, they do not change the law; assisting or encouraging suicide has not been decriminalised.
The Director of Public Prosecutions has now further clarified the CPS Policy on the likelihood of prosecution of health care professionals, to specify that the relationship of care will be the important aspect and it will be necessary to consider whether the suspect may have been in a position to exert some influence on the victim.
I believe the application of the law should be flexible enough to distinguish the facts and the circumstances of one case from another. To this end, the DPP's policy offers important and sensitive guidance.