Assisted suicide - Commons Library Standard Note

Published 16 March 2012 | Standard notes SN04857

Authors: Sally Lipscombe, Gavin Colthart

Topic: Crime, Medical ethics

This note provides background to the offence of assisting a person to commit suicide under the Suicide Act 1961, in the context of terminally ill people who may be unable to end their lives without the assistance of family or friends. Particular reference is made to the case of Debbie Purdy, who in July 2009 obtained a House of Lords ruling ordering the Director of Public Prosecutions to formulate an offence-specific policy setting out the factors he will consider when deciding whether to prosecute assisted suicide offences.

The note also considers legislative proposals to amend the language of the 1961 Act, and provides an overview of some of the key stakeholders on either side of the assisted suicide debate.

The note also looks at a recent report by the Commission for Assisted Dying, a privately funded organisation, which recommended that Parliament should consider introducing a new legal framework on assisted suicide.

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