Bioethics News

Assisted suicide: parliamentary debate and two contradictory outcomes

Below are translations of two news reports on assisted suicide published in Spanish newspapers:

1. On 11th September this year, British Parliament rejected by majority a bill to authorise assisted suicide in England and Wales; the bill would have allowed terminally ill patients to receive medical assistance to die. A total of 330 representatives from all parties voted against continuing processing the so-called Assisted Dying Law — compared to 118 in favour — in the first vote on this issue held in the Chamber of Commons (which has 650 seats) since 1997.

That year, Parliament rejected a similar law, although since then, the number of cases of British patients who have turned to the courts to demand their right to die with dignity, as well as travel to specialised clinics abroad (like Dignitas in Switzerland), has increased.

The bill, which was revoked in its first reading following an intense debate, had been introduced personally by Labour MP Rob Marris, who advocated its legislation to give terminally ill patients the right to die with “dignity”.

The text proposed would have allowed doctors to prescribe a lethal dose to any patient with a life expectancy of less than six months who requested it.

As a safeguard, each case would have been supervised by two doctors and a high court judge, the patient would have had to take the drugs unaided, and the doctors would have been entitled to refuse to prescribe them.

Under the Suicide Act 1961, it is currently illegal in England and Wales to assist or encourage a person to end their life, an offence punishable by up to 14 years imprisonment.

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