This week the Independent Newspaper reported a further development in the ongoing debate about assisted suicide. It stated:
Doctors and nurses who support assisted suicide for the terminally ill will launch a campaign tomorrow to change the law on the right to die.
Healthcare Professionals for Change (HPC), a group of doctors, nurses and allied health professionals, aims to challenge the views of bodies such as the British Medical Association (BMA) and the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) which oppose such a move.
It is the first professional body to be set up with the explicit aim of changing the 1961 Suicide Act.
Dr Ann McPherson, who is dying of pancreatic cancer, said many doctors believed that patients "should not have to suffer against their wishes at the end of life".
The group's founder went on: "By taking a hostile approach to a change in the law on assisted dying, medical bodies such as the BMA and the Royal College of Physicians are failing to adequately reflect the views of all their members.
"Alongside access to good-quality end-of-life care, we believe that terminally-ill, mentally-competent patients should be able to choose an assisted death, subject to safeguards."
Sarah Wootton, chief executive of Dignity in Dying which backs the group, said: "It's a real move forward.
The issue of assisted suicide is the subject of one of Halsbury’s Law Exchange’s current projects. It has been noted several times as Law in the Headlines (see here for example), and the present instance is unlikely to be the last. Dr McPherson states that medical bodies are “failing to adequately (sic) reflect the views of all their members”, and yet given that there will be diametrically opposing views amongst those members, that is not a criticism that can ever be answered.
The existing state of the law is reviewed by Lynne Townley in the LexisNexis publication Cases that Changed Our Lives (2010), and will be considered further in a forthcoming HLE white paper. The latter will not be short of material.