Tribunals needed for assisted suicide in the UK

November 8, 2013, University of Hertfordshire
Credit: Melodi2 via www.sxc.hu

A new tribunal-style system to provide sympathetic and speedy consideration for each and every terminally-ill patient who wishes to end their lives is needed according to Claudia Carr, from the University of Hertfordshire's School of Law. The proposed system is being presented in a paper at the 1st Global Conference on Suicide, Self-Harm and Assisted Dying being held in Athens this week.

The ethical and legal debates around assisted dying or assisted , where an individual helps another person with the means to end his or her own life, remain in the media's spotlight. However, the introduction of a new tribunal style system will provide the opportunity for each case to be assessed on its merits, and giving each patient the dignity to die when they choose.

Free will and autonomy

Claudia Carr, Senior Lecturer in Law at the University of Hertfordshire, said: "Assisted dying should not be prohibitive. Throughout a person's life, they have free will and autonomy to decide how to live their life. However, a person diagnosed with a terminal and cannot decide to end their life at the time of their choosing and die with dignity – the law prohibits this and those that assist.

"The underlying fear of the slippery slope and the effect that legalising assisted suicide would have on the elderly and vulnerable is a justifiable one; however, the terminally-ill patient's autonomy should also be respected. It is right to protect the vulnerable and the disabled who could be influenced or pressurised to end their life for fear of being a burden on others. But it is oppressive to force those who wish to die, to remain living in pain and suffering."

Specialised tribunal panel

The introduction of a specialised tribunal panel, comprising representatives from both the judiciary and the medical profession, can assess each case on its merits.

The proposed system would seek to confirm whether the patient has a terminal condition from which they will die within 9-12 months, and each patient will be given a cooling off period to explore options of palliative care. Each case will be recorded and each death reported. The panel will ensure that the patient is not being unduly pressurised and the person who will assist has nothing to gain. Each case will be closely monitored and each patient's dignity to die as they choose will be respected.

Legalising assisted suicide whilst protecting the vulnerable

Carr concluded: "A new tribunal style system could respect a terminally-ill person's decision as to the stage at which they wish to end their life and in the place of their choice – which is more than likely to be at home surrounded by their family and friends.

"Now is the time for the UK Government to take the brave and audacious move to consider legalising in the UK whilst protecting the vulnerable."

Explore further: UK experts: Assisted suicide legally possible

Related Stories

UK experts: Assisted suicide legally possible

January 5, 2012
An independent panel of experts in the U.K. says there is a strong case for changing British law to help terminally ill people die.

Canadian doctor makes posthumous assisted suicide plea (Update)

September 25, 2013
A Canadian microbiologist who reassured a frightened nation during the 2003 SARS crisis, has ignited a controversial debate with a posthumous plea on Wednesday for assisted suicide.

Most doctors oppose physician-assisted suicide, poll finds

September 12, 2013
(HealthDay)—Whether doctors should help patients die continues to be a hotly debated topic within the medical community, a New England Journal of Medicine poll finds.

Canada upholds law against assisted suicide (Update)

October 10, 2013
British Columbia's appeals court overturned a lower court ruling Thursday that found Canada's law against physician-assisted suicide to be unconstitutional.

British scientist Stephen Hawking backs assisted suicide

September 18, 2013
Stephen Hawking, the British theoretical physicist who suffers from motor neurone disease, has publicly backed the notion of assisted suicide for people with terminal illnesses.

Vermont becomes third US state to legalize assisted suicide

May 20, 2013
Vermont became on Monday the third US state to legalize physician-assisted suicide.

Recommended for you

Best of Last Year—The top Medical Xpress articles of 2017

December 20, 2017
It was a good year for medical research as a team at the German center for Neurodegenerative Diseases, Magdeburg, found that dancing can reverse the signs of aging in the brain. Any exercise helps, the team found, but dancing ...

Pickled in 'cognac', Chopin's heart gives up its secrets

November 26, 2017
The heart of Frederic Chopin, among the world's most cherished musical virtuosos, may finally have given up the cause of his untimely death.

Sugar industry withheld evidence of sucrose's health effects nearly 50 years ago

November 21, 2017
A U.S. sugar industry trade group appears to have pulled the plug on a study that was producing animal evidence linking sucrose to disease nearly 50 years ago, researchers argue in a paper publishing on November 21 in the ...

Female researchers pay more attention to sex and gender in medicine

November 7, 2017
When women participate in a medical research paper, that research is more likely to take into account the differences between the way men and women react to diseases and treatments, according to a new study by Stanford researchers.

Drug therapy from lethal bacteria could reduce kidney transplant rejection

August 3, 2017
An experimental treatment derived from a potentially deadly microorganism may provide lifesaving help for kidney transplant patients, according to an international study led by investigators at Cedars-Sinai.

Exploring the potential of human echolocation

June 25, 2017
People who are visually impaired will often use a cane to feel out their surroundings. With training and practice, people can learn to use the pitch, loudness and timbre of echoes from the cane or other sounds to navigate ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.