As in most other countries, the UK has no assisted suicide law.
However in September 2009, the Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer QC, published interim policy guidelines on prosecuting assisted suicide. These guidelines suggest that under certain conditions those who assist a loved one to suicide will not be prosecuted.
Public interest factors against a prosecution have been listed as:
The interim policy is available with a summary of the consultation responses to be published in early 2010. The finalised policy will be issued in Spring 2010.
- The victim had a clear, settled and informed wish to commit suicide;
- The victim indicated unequivocally to the suspect that he or she wished to commit suicide;
- The victim asked personally on his or her own initiative for the assistance of the suspect;
- The victim had a terminal illness or a severe and incurable physical disability or a severe degenerative physical condition from which there was no possibility of recovery;
- The suspect was wholly motivated by compassion;
- The suspect was the spouse, partner or a close relative or a close personal friend of the victim, within the context of a long-term and supportive relationship;
- The actions of the suspect, although sufficient to come within the definition of the offence, were of only minor assistance or influence, or the assistance which the suspect provided was as a consequence of their usual lawful employment.
Outside of the above developments, UK citizens have immediate access to Advance Medical Directives
Advance Medical Directives
Advance directives are legal documents (also called living wills and health care proxy), which allow an individual to convey decisions about end-of-life care should they be unable to do so for themselves.
Via the appointment of either a durable power of attorney or Health Care Proxy allows, a person (proxy or agent) can be appointed to make medical decisions of the individual's behalf.
Issues that can generally be covered by an AMD include:
- the use of life-sustaining equipment (eg. ventilator or respirator)
- "do not resuscitate" orders; that is, instructions not to use CPR if breathing or heartbeat stops
- artificial hydration / nutrition (tube feeding
- withholding of food / fluid.
AMD's do not provide for euthanasia or assisted suicide.
In the UK, an AMD is legally binding as long as, at the time of signature, the person involved:
Sample forms can be found online (with much searching) or purchased commercially.
- is mentally capable of making the decisions contained within the AMD
- understands what will happen in consequence of the AMD
- makes clear what future treatment is requested with regard to medical circumstances that may later arise
- makes the AMD voluntarily and not under the influence of someone else.