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UK Politics

Brown 'totally against' laws allowing assisted suicide

Prime Minister Gordon Brown today set himself firmly against any relaxation of the law on assisted suicide.

Mr Brown said that he was not prepared to create any legislation which might put vulnerable people under pressure to agree to end their own lives. The law should make "absolutely clear" it recognises the value of human life, he said.

Recent months have seen mounting calls for a change in the law in the wake of a series of cases of British people who have travelled to Switzerland to die.

At present, the law makes it a criminal offence to "aid, abet, counsel or procure" someone else's suicide.

But the Director of Public Prosecutions decided earlier this month not to charge the parents of Daniel James, who accompanied their 23-year-old tetraplegic son to the Dignitas clinic in Zurich to allow him to die.

Also this month, the last moments of terminally-ill Craig Ewert as he underwent assisted suicide at the clinic were shown on British TV.

Mr Brown has previously made clear his personal opposition to any change in the law on assisted suicide.

In an interview broadcast this morning on BBC Radio 4's Today, the Prime Minister was asked by Roman Catholic Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor - acting as guest editor of the programme - whether he would support laws to permit euthanasia or assisted suicide.

Mr Brown responded: "I am totally against laws on that... It is not really for us to create any legislation that would put pressure on people to feel they had to offer themselves because they were causing trouble to a relative or anyone else.

"I think we have got to make it absolutely clear that the importance of human life is recognised."

Mr Brown also told the Cardinal that the current economic crisis had made clear the need for a moral dimension to capitalism.

"This is the lesson that I think has come home through this crisis over the last year," said the PM. "Yes, we believe in free markets, but we don't believe in value-free markets.

"It is quite an important point that successful economies and societies are built on recognising that there are strong values that are absolutely crucial to their success - the value of hard work, taking responsibility, being enterprising but not taking irresponsible risks at the expense of other people.

"I think people are starting to realise - perhaps in a way that wasn't possible when we had all these debates a few years ago - that we are also a global society and we can't solve the problems of global financial markets without having co-operation between different countries to achieve it.

"That is why, when we host the G20 meeting in London in April, it is my wish that all countries will subscribe to a shared programme of taking action to sort out the abuses in the financial system, but also to co-operate together to create growth and jobs."