Suicide rules 'will lead to Swiss clinics'

Wednesday 23 September 2009 00:00 BST

Campaigners fear that Swiss-style euthanasia clinics could soon be established in Britain after the publication today of new guidance which will protect compassionate carers from criminal prosecution.

The controversial guidelines to be issued by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Keir Starmer QC, will make clear who will be protected by the law when aiding and abetting an assisted suicide. It follows a House of Lords ruling earlier this year which required the DPP to set out specific criteria for bringing a prosecution in cases where Britons have been helped to travel abroad to end their lives.

Euthanasia clinics in the UK would be the "logical conclusion and natural progression" to these guidelines, warned Andrea Minichiello Williams, barrister and director of the Christian Legal Centre.

Under the guidelines to be published by the DPP today, suicide clinics could show themselves to comply with the new "compassionate carer" rules unless the DPP excludes such clinics from legal protection.

Critics say that gives a green light to a charity which wishes to establish a euthanasia clinic and complies with the new criteria.

Dignitas-style clinics would need to show that no one involved in its service benefited from the death and had acted at all times out of a sense of compassion towards anyone seeking their help.

Dignity in Dying chief executive Sarah Wootton said: "We anticipate something that distinguishes between a compassionate assister and a malicious encourager and that can only be a good thing."

But other pro-life campaigner Dr Peter Saunders, of Care not Killing, said: "The DPP does not make the law... he cannot make something legal that is now illegal."

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