Terry Pratchett welcomes assisted suicide guidelines

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The Independent Online

Author Sir Terry Pratchett welcomed today's guidance on assisted suicide as "the best we can get without a change in the law".

The 61-year-old, who suffers from Alzheimer's disease, believes people should have the right to choose when they die.

He used a lecture earlier this month to call for "tribunals" in cases where people were seeking to end their lives.

Reacting to the new guidelines from Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer QC, Sir Terry said: "They don't conform to my distant goal of what I want but I think it represents probably the best that we can get without a change in the law.

"It doesn't look like such a tick box exercise as it used to.

"There are some very sensible things that avoid controversy.

"Originally if someone who helped someone to die had any financial gain in so doing, that would be automatic Mr Plod knocking on the door.

"It has been realised that if a well-meaning wife helps a husband who is relatively determined to see his life ended she might well benefit but, as I understand it, if she has acted compassionately she will be safe (from prosecution)."

He said he will continue to fight for a change in the law, however, because the existing system only addresses the problem after somebody has already died.

"I think we should consider looking to the medical profession to do with care and attention and with understanding and with full explanation of the circumstances, to allow us to die at a time of our choosing," he said.

"I think of this almost as a right.

"I hate the thought of amateurs helping amateurs to commit suicide."

The writer used the Richard Dimbleby Lecture on February 1 to put forward his idea of "tribunals".

The author of the best-selling Discworld fantasy novels said such bodies would combat the risk of vulnerable people being pressurised to end their own lives.

He offered himself as a test case for a tribunal, which would include a legal expert in family affairs and a doctor who had dealt with serious, long-term illness.

Sir Terry described Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who has warned against legalising assisted suicide, as a "very decent man" who was entitled to his opinion.

But he pointed to the "overwhelming" support for assisted dying in the opinion polls.

A YouGov poll commissioned by the Daily Telegraph found that 75% of 2,053 people questioned wanted the law changed to allow assisted suicide.