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Coroners and Justice Bill

Published: 17th March 2009


What's it about?

This Bill is going through Parliament at the moment and is due for Report Stage in the House of Commons on 23 and 24 March 2009. It covers a lot of things, one of which is the law on Suicide. The 1961 Suicide Act made it legal for people to commit suicide but it remains illegal to assist someone to take his or her own life – in the words of the Act, to 'aid, abet, counsel or procure' someone's suicide.

The Government wants to make clear that this prohibition applies not just to one person assisting another person to commit suicide but also to people who encourage or assist others whom they may not know. There is particular concern over some internet websites that promote suicide and over the bad effect these may be having on unstable young people. The Government's plans are sensible and should be supported.

However, the euthanasia lobby is pressing for further amendments to be made to the Suicide Act actually to allow assistance with suicide for certain categories of people, in particular the terminally ill. If you agree that this would be a dangerous step, you are urged to write to your Member of Parliament and urge him or her to vote against any such amendments that are put forward. In writing, you may wish to draw on one or more of the following arguments:

What to say

  • The Government is right to tighten up the law. We have seen a spate of suicides among young people recently, and there is more than a suspicion that some of these have been influenced by unhealthy internet websites that promote suicide or advertise the means to carry out. The loophole in the Suicide Act that allows this should be closed.
  • We don't have to log on to the internet to see how the law is being abused. Just before Christmas there was a Panorama programme featuring a Member of the Scottish Parliament who wanted to see euthanasia legalised showing how 'suicide hoods' could be obtained from Canada. This sort of thing must be stopped too if we are not to become a sick society.
  • It is being argued that there is a difference between 'encouraging' suicide, which is what the Government wants to ban, and 'assisting' it, which is what euthanasia campaigners want to see legalised. This is just sophistry. It's like saying that it's wrong to encourage a man to shoot himself but quite alright, if he is resolved to do it, to hand him a loaded gun.
  • Any law allowing assisted suicide would inevitably place pressure on vulnerable people (those who are elderly, depressed, disabled or sick) to request early death so as not to be a burden to family, carers or the state. At a time of economic recession this pressure would be particularly acute.

You can write to your MP at . All you need is your postcode.

For more information on the Coroners and Justice Bill see the following:

Progress of Coroners and Justice Bill

Care Not Killing Briefing

All Party Group for Dying Well (Parliamentary briefing)

Coroners and Justice Bill clears Committee Stage

Baroness Ilora Finlay on the dangers of assisted suicide

Brian Iddon MPs Early Day Motion on Assisted Suicide and the Suicide Act

For further information:

Steven Fouch (CMF Head of Communications) 020 7234 9668

Media Enquiries:

Alistair Thompson on 07970 162 225

About CMF:

Christian Medical Fellowship (CMF) was founded in 1949 and is an interdenominational organisation with over 5,000 doctors, 900medical and nursing students and 300 nurses and midwives as members in all branches of medicine, nursing and midwifery. A registered charity, it is linked to over 100 similar bodies in other countries throughout the world.

CMF exists to unite Christian healthcare professionals to pursue the highest ethical standards in Christian and professional life and to increase faith in Christ and acceptance of his ethical teaching.

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